PARIS, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Seventy-one percent of French people want companies to be able to set employee working hours, according to an opinion poll, a move that would dilute the 35-hour working week laws over which the ruling Socialist party is split.
Pro-business Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron laid bare that rift last month as members of the party reacted angrily to what appeared to be his criticism of the legislation during their annual summer conference.
Introduced by a previous Socialist government in 2000 in a bid to redistribute work and create jobs, the 35-hour limit is fiercely protected by the French left despite pressure from big business to relax it.
The issue has become a rallying point for discontent over the pro-business direction Hollande has taken, and is set to be in the spotlight again in coming weeks with a government-commissioned report on labour law due to be published.
According to a CSA survey of 1,003 people published for Les Echos newspaper 71 percent of people back the move with 69 percent of Socialist supporters also in favour of the changes.
The government has been pushing through measures to encourage small firms to hire by making labour rules more flexible and cutting costs in an effort to tackle unemployment which is stuck above 10 percent. (Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus and Hugh Lawson)