To create jobs and lower France's unemployment rate, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said Friday he intends to give the country a 35-hour work week by 2000.
Union leaders at a daylong jobs conference demanded that Jospin, a Socialist, make good on a campaign promise to pass a law ordering a 35-hour workweek with the same pay. But business groups vowed a fight and predicted disaster if forced to cut back from the current 39-hour work week.
The prime minister said salaries would not be reduced to achieve a shortened work week, but that his goal could be reached only with a "controlled progression of salaries."
Jospin, grappling with a 12.5 percent unemployment rate, told the jobs conference that he wants a law to spur a move toward cutting the work week to as little as 32 hours.
Union leaders fearing a loss in purchasing power want a shorter work week, but with no loss in wages.
Business leaders and analysts, however, have called for loosening the country's rigid labor laws and lightening the tax load to stimulate U.S.-style job-creation.