PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has signed five decrees paving the way to the implementation of labor law measures aimed at boosting economic growth.

The move Friday comes as unions and political opponents stage a series of street protests, fearing the reforms will weaken hard-won worker protections.

The labor market overhaul is the central pillar in Macron’s promises to create jobs and make the country more globally competitive.

The measures aim to make it easier for firms to hire and fire, simplify negotiations between employers and employees, and reduce the power of national collective bargaining.

Macron said during the signing ceremony at the Elysee palace that the first measures will start being applied next week, and all will be implemented by the end of the year.

He lauded the “unprecedented wave of changes” to France’s social model, along with a reform of unemployment benefits and a training plan for jobless people to be set up next year.

Labor minister Muriel Penicaud said “this is a key moment because beyond a change in the law, it’s a mental shift in social relationships, in labor rules and in the job market that we think is necessary and possible”.

Opponents have denounced the government’s decision to use a special procedure allowing it to make decrees, instead of a lengthy debate to pass the bill at parliament.

Hard-left lawmaker Jean-Luc Melenchon criticized Macron as “authoritarian” and called for a big protest in Paris on Saturday.

“I think these measures can be withdrawn”, he said Thursday.

On Thursday, a nationwide protest, backed by the hard-left CGT trade union, gathered 132,000 people across France, much less than in last week’s protests, according to the Interior ministry.

Among the most contested reforms, one will cap the financial penalties awarded by labor courts in the event of dismissals recognized as wrongful. Another eases regulations governing when and why companies can dismiss workers.