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Leading French unions boycott job creation summit, dash Hollande plans

PARIS -- A summit aimed at creating half a million badly needed jobs in France got off to a rocky start on Monday, with two major labour organizations saying they would boycott the event.

President Francois Hollande opened the two-day conference, where he hopes to hammer out a deal to create more jobs to lower France's record unemployment in return for corporate tax and benefit cuts.

But his plans were dashed when the CGT and Force Ouvriere (FO) union federations said they would shun crucial talks scheduled for Tuesday, accusing Hollande of siding with employers.

The embattled French head of state has been trying to fine-tune his so-called Responsibility Pact, which offers businesses 40 billion euros (US$54 billion) worth of cuts to taxes and social benefit charges in exchange for a pledge to create some 500,000 jobs by 2017.

Hollande urged companies “to join in the process urgently to achieve concrete results” saying the talks should not devolve into “perpetual one-upmanship with unilateral demands.”

The summit comes against a backdrop of record unemployment in the eurozone's second-largest economy, where 3.38 million people are out of work.

France's high jobless rate was a key factor behind humiliating election defeats for Hollande's Socialists this year.

The unions were angered by Prime Minister Manuel Valls's decision last week to defer a scheme to offer early retirement to those in physically demanding jobs, following complaints from leading employers union Medef that it was too costly.

Medef has also threatened to boycott the summit.

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