May 1, 2017 / 6:26 PM / 3 months ago

Macron sticks to labour reform plans in rally speech

2 Min Read

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Paris, France, May 1, 2017.Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - Centrist French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron on Monday rejected calls from the left to amend the pro-business reforms in his electoral programme.

With six days to go before the second round of the presidential election that polls show him on track to win, Macron made the pledge at a rally of around 12,000 people on the edge of Paris.

"I heard the calls to change my manifesto," he said, in a reference to the demands of Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who picked up one in five votes in the first round of voting last weekend.

"Some did it in the past, but I won't do it."

Macron needs leftwing votes if he is to beat his far-right run-off rival Marine Le Pen on Sunday. A poll last week show about 40 percent of those who voted for Melenchon would support him, but that another 40 percent could abstain, with the rest choosing Le Pen.

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Paris, France, May 1, 2017.Benoit Tessier

He said his proposed reforms, which include capping severance payments to make firing and hiring easier, were necessary to address unemployment, which has hovered around 10 percent in France for several years.

"These changes are essential to prevent the National Front from becoming stronger in five years' time," he added.

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Paris, France, May 1, 2017.Benoit Tessier

In a message of conciliation to voters concerned about globalisation, however, Macron said he would set up a committee to investigate the consequences of the CETA free trade deal between Europe and Canada.

He also repeated he would seek fairer EU rules to prevent what he calls 'social dumping' - under which companies can move jobs to member countries where labour is cheaper and employ imported workers at lower rates.

Macron also mocked Le Pen's move in recent days to soften her stance on dumping the euro common currency under which she outlined a leisurely transition to a national currency and a parallel 'European common currency'.

"They're now explaining to us that we'll have francs in the morning and euros in the afternoon, and that with this monopoly money all will be well," he said.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Andrew Callus

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