PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - French employers will consider
some concessions in labour reform talks on Thursday but remain
opposed to a key union demand to raise welfare charges on
short-term contracts, their chief said as negotiations entered a
President Francois Hollande has called on business leaders
and worker groups to strike a "historic deal" to overhaul
France's labour market, helping firms to adjust their wage
burden in a downturn and giving workers more job security.
His Socialist government is pressing the parties to conclude
a deal by Jan. 15 as talks restart. A previous round broke up
without an accord, with both sides accusing each other of making
Hollande will introduce a draft law in the first quarter of
2013 regardless of whether a deal is struck. But without support
from unions and employers, any law may face street protests and
unions may push left-wing lawmakers to water it down.
"Tonight, we can reach a deal that puts France on par with
the highest international standards in terms of flexi-security,"
Laurence Parisot, head of the Medef employers union, said on
Europe 1 radio. "Anything less, there will be no deal."
Flexi-security refers to a cooperative approach to labour
relations widely used in northern Europe in which employees
accept a degree of flexibility in working arrangements in return
for employer commitments on job security.
France wants to emulate that to address high unemployment
and to eradicate the split in its jobs market between unflexible
permanent contracts and short-term contracts increasingly used
by employers but which offer workers little or no job security.
Parisot said the Medef and its negotiating partner, the
CGPME small- and medium-sized business group, would consider
giving unions a voice and votes on company boards, and favoured
making complementary health benefits automatic for workers.
Unions say they could accept in-house deals allowing firms
to temporarily cut work-hours during downturns, similar to
arrangements in Germany. They may also accept the creation of
new long-term job contracts with less iron-clad terms.
However, union demands to impose higher welfare charges on
short-term contracts remained a sticking point. Parisot said
Medef was not prepared to extend talks beyond this week.
Bernard Thibault, head of the hardline CGT union, said his
group would not sign any deal in favour of de-regulation.
"What I can tell you is there is no way the CGT will approve
the spirit of proposals from management's camp," he said.
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur and Jean-Baptiste Vey; editing
by Mark John)