France's Sarkozy scraps longer hours for teachers

French President Nicolas Sarkosy seeks for support before his reforms. He bowed Monday to labor union demands to scrap longer hours for teachers.

The measure, championed by former Education Minister Gilles de Robien, allowed schools to extend teachers' work schedules and require them to teach several subjects.

It was a major issue for teachers' unions and the subject of a host of meetings between union leaders and members of Sarkozy's new government. Sarkozy met with union leaders for two hours on Monday.

"The president told us the text was repealed," Patrick Gonthier, the head of the UNSA-Education union, told reporters after the meeting. "We are satisfied because this decree had embittered schools for the past eight months."

The announcement comes a day after Sarkozy's UMP party scored a strong showing in the first round of parliamentary elections on Sunday. The UMP garnered 39.6 percent of the vote, while the opposition Socialists won 24.7 percent.

The results put the party on track to expand its absolute majority in the 577-seat parliament in the decisive runoff next Sunday.

A sweeping majority is essential to Sarkozy's reform agenda, which infludes changes to universities, tackling public transport strikes, new anti-crime measures, freeing up the labor market and a plan to cut the large national debt. Unions and student groups stand ready to resist with mass protests similar to those that logjammed reforms by former President Jacques Chirac.