By Murat Unlu
PARIS (AA) – France's president, Francois Hollande, said Friday he will "not back off" from controversial labor law reforms which have sparked a wave of strikes across the country.
Hollande's remarks came during a G7 meeting in Japan, where he said his government's main objective is to make the economy function smoothly during the industrial action which has affected access to oil refineries.
"I will not take a step back from it because I think it's a good reform," Hollande said.
The planned changes would give greater freedom to firms to reduce pay and lay off workers. It also weakens the power of unions to negotiate with management on issues such as working hours.
A wave of strikes began in the country last year over the proposals.
Six of the country’s eight oil refineries have been hit by the industrial action so far, creating significant problems at gas stations.
According to the French Union of Petroleum Industries, more than 4,000 gas stations are running dry across the country.
The strike, which left a significant impact on transportation, also hit the capital. Protests affected metro lines, local trains and airport services.
Demonstrators disrupted supply lines from oil distribution depots in Normandy by blocking motorways and bridges. Reports also suggested that some railways were also being blocked.
Another labor union, the CGT, decided to join the widespread strike, which, it said, would affect 16 of the country's 19 power stations, according to local media reports.