Monsters and Critics
Apr 1, 2006, 14:03 GMT
Opposition grows to Chirac compromise on youth jobs law
Paris - Opposition to French President Jacques irac's plan to end a months-long protest over a youth jobs law grew sharper Saturday when the head of the French Socialist Party said he would introduce a bill to repeal the measure.
The move by Francois Hollande was intended to counter Chirac's proposal, made on national television late Friday, to sign the First Job Contract (CPE) into law but not apply it until a new law was passed that amended certain of its provisions.
'Jacques Chirac was confused,' Hollande said, and accused the president of creating a 'judicial imbroglio.'
'As opposed to Jacques Chirac, we want to be clear,' he went on. 'The only way to end the conflict... is to repeal the CPE.'
A bill to rescind the CPE would have little chance of success in the Parliament, which is controlled by the ruling UMP party, but it could provide a rallying point for opponents to the law, who want it scrapped.
The amended law, which Hollande mockingly referred to as 'CPE junior,' would reduce the trial period for newly hired workers under the age of 26 from two years to one and oblige employers to give a reason when firing a worker hired under the law.
After Chirac said he would sign the CPE, about 2,000 protesters, most of them students, roamed through Paris early Saturday smashing windows and damaging cars. They also pelted the Paris headquarters of the UMP party with eggs and hurled projectiles at police guarding the Sorbonne.
Police said they took 109 people into custody in Paris and that two officers were injured in confrontations with protesters.
Hundreds of students also protested in Lyon, Nantes, Strasbourg and Bordeaux, among other cities.
Earlier Friday, trade union leaders rejected Chirac's appeal to help draft changes to the law and said they would press ahead with a national day of protest planned for Tuesday.
'We will see to it, with the largest possible protest demonstration on April 4, that Parliament votes on a new law, not to modify the CPE but to repeal it,' said CGT union head Bernard Thibault.
Chirac said the CPE would make it easier for French employers to hire French workers and would keep companies from moving abroad.
'The time has come to move forward,' Chirac said. 'We must work together to end the shocking situation in which companies, afraid of inordinate inflexibility, prefer to turn down an order or move overseas rather than hire, when so many people are trapped in unemployment.'
Trade union, students and opposition politicians have repeatedly demanded that the CPE be scrapped as a prerequisite for negotiations on what measures to take to fight youth unemployment.
Youth joblessness stands at 23 per cent in France, and is at least twice as high in the long-neglected suburban ghettoes. However, unions and prospective first-time employees are resisting ceding traditional rights and privileges.
Most French workers hold an unlimited employment contract and can count on holding their jobs until retirement. An employer who wants to fire a worker must pay fines and provide up to three years' severance pay.
© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
April 10 (Bloomberg) -- French President Jacques Chirac scrapped a youth-labor law intended to revive economic growth, bowing to two months of protests that split the governing party.