PARIS - French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday the battle against unemployment was not yet won as he vowed to stick with his controversial attempts to reform the labour market.

The reforms have sparked two months of street protests and led to an unsuccessful attempt to bring down the government.

But Hollande said he placed the need to reform over his personal popularity even as he weighs a possible bid for re-election next year.

"I will not give way because too many (previous) governments have backed down," Hollande said in an hour-long interview with Europe 1 radio.

"I prefer that people have an image of a president who made reforms rather than a president who did nothing," he said.

Truck drivers obstructed roads in western France on Tuesday as a week of strikes kicked off in protest at the package of reforms.

The government argues the changes will make the notoriously rigid labour market more flexible, but which opponents say will erode job security.

Hollande has pledged to decide at the end of this year whether to stand for re-election next May, but he said Tuesday he saw "no alternative" to himself on the left of French politics.

"If I am not there... if the left is not re-elected, the right or the extreme-right will win," he said.

Hollande is staking his bid on bringing down unemployment, stuck stubbornly at above 10 percent, and at nearly 25 percent for young people. "It takes time for those reforms to take effect," Hollande said.

"The battle is not won. It will only be won when we have, over several months, a sustained fall in unemployment," he said. "I am fighting the battle every day."

The Socialist government last week survived a vote of no-confidence, which was called by the centre-right opposition, after it forced through the labour market reform bill without parliament's approval.

The draft law will now be debated in the Senate, the upper house of parliament.

Many unions and student groups say the reforms will do little to address France's jobless rate and many employers fear they have been so watered down in the face of opposition that they will fail to have any effect.

But a defiant Hollande said the draft law "is going to go through because it has been debated, agreed on and amended".

The president also promised tougher action against troublemakers who have infiltrated street protests against the reforms, damaged property and provoked confrontation with riot police.

Many of the demonstrations against the reforms have descended into violence. "It will not be accepted," Hollande said, promising more arrests and bans on protesting for others. "Demonstrating is a right, but smashing things up is a crime," he said.

The president said more than 1,000 people had already been arrested and that 350 police officers had been injured in the violence.