The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

France adopts new labor law, drawing protest riots from youth

Rioters in France were infuriated by a new labor law (Donga)
Rioters in France were infuriated by a new labor law (Donga)

Over 1.5 million people in France took to the street to oppose a new labor contract that would make it easier for employers to fire younger workers without reason. Currently, the French national unemployment rate lingers at around 10 percent, and more than 50 percent among many groups of French youth.

The law is meant to increase the number of jobs by encouraging companies to hire young workers knowing that they can fire them more easily. Employers are given a two-year period in which they can fire employees under 26 years old inexplicably.

Students and unionists alike are wary of the law, fearing instability and uncertainty in the workplace for the youth. They led protests spanning more than 150 separate demonstrations nationwide, many ending in street fights and clouds of tear gas. Youths ignited fires in cars, and vandals smashed bus shelters and shop windows.

The protestors are urging French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to withdrawal the First Job Contract (CPE). They have threatened strikes and continued protests.

“Today we can clearly see that the mobilization is stronger than ever,” Bruno Julliard said of the UNEF students’ union, according to Deutsche Welle. “Either the government listens to reason and withdraws the CPE, or it will be obliged to do so next week – because we will be back in the street.”

Villepin, who has the support of President Jacques Chirac, has made implementation of the CPE a personal mission.

“We must apply the CPE for the sake of reform,” Villepin said to The Herald Tribune Europe. “I guarantee to sweeten the pill so that all of France can benefit from the contract. We just need the proper dialogue to take place.”

University chiefs and administrators who recently met with Villepin are optimistic that he is willing to change the CPE.

“He realizes we are on the edge of a clash, a real clash,” said Yannick Vallee, Vice President of the Conference of University Presidents, to CNN. “We asked him if he was ready to make a gesture to unblock the situation. He didn’t tell us what gesture, but he seemed ready to

listen, and ready for a significant gesture.”

Two weeks of protests have steadily built momentum: strikes have affected 60 of France’s 84 universities, and nationwide demonstrations have drawn as many as half a million university and high school students.

“My older brother is doing a study abroad in Paris right now, but they haven’t had class in over two weeks,” said junior Emily Ott. “Many of his classmates are involved in the protesting. Luckily, he doesn’t live where the violence has taken place.”

The anti-CPE movement has continued to grow; a current opinion poll showed that 68 percent of the public opposed the youth jobs plan, up from 55 percent just over a week before.

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