French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday parliament would vote next year on reforms to simplify France's "overly complex" labour law and get more of the 3.5 million unemployed back into work.
But the government faces an uphill struggle to convince unions and workers that the current code governing the labour market in the eurozone's second-largest economy needs to be shaken up.
Valls said the 3,000-page labour law was "at times unreadable" but promised that the proposed reforms would not affect France's 35-hour working week, which is regularly criticised by the centre-right opposition but considered sacrosanct by the governing Socialists.
The reforms would give "more flexibility, but not less protection" to workers, Valls said after the release of a report on possible reforms to laws governing the labour market.
The main recommendation in the report is that companies must be able to negotiate with unions on certain key issues -- such as working conditions or salaries -- where the law currently ties their hands.
In another proposal, management will only be able to sign deals with organisations representing at least 50 percent of workers who voted in union elections, up from the current 30 percent.
A bill will be submitted to cabinet at the end of the year or the beginning of 2016, and parliament is expected to vote on it by next summer.
Unions were quick to react, and while some said they were not hostile to the proposed changes as long as they offer "better protection" for workers, others instantly voiced their opposition.
Philippe Martinez, head of the influential CGT union, said he was "resolutely against this development in the labour law."
The labour market reform will probably be the final economic and social reform of President Francois Hollande's five-year term in office ahead of presidential elections in 2017.
Hollande's time in office has been punctuated by economic woes.
Since he came to power in 2012, the jobless total has swelled by 630,000.
Analysts said the mooted changes would bring France into line with its European competitors.
"It makes a lot of sense to give more power to (negotiations) that can take place at company level," said Stephane Garelli, an expert in world competitiveness at the Swiss-based IMD business school.
"This is a system which is in operation in Germany, in Switzerland, in the Scandinavian countries... and it works very well. Italy is also going in this direction."
He added: "What we have found is that if you want to promote the flexibility of the labour market, it starts by letting people who are in the labour market make their own agreements."