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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Fresh job law protests in France
Protests in Nice
Protesters are hoping for a repeat of last week's rallies
Hundreds of thousands of people across France have been taking part in the latest protests against a new youth employment law.

Unions and student groups were hoping to repeat last week's rallies, when more than one million people marched nationwide against the legislation.

There were some scuffles between protestors and police in Paris, which saw violence during previous rallies.

The law making it easy to hire and fire young people came into force on Sunday.

But the government has asked French employers not to apply it until amendments are made.

Tuesday saw Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin insist that the new law was necessary to tackle high youth unemployment.

"The government will not give up," he said. "It will not associate itself with those in the country who want to remain stagnant."


More than 200 rallies were planned for Tuesday - the fifth day of protests across France in two months.

Contrat Premiere Embauche (CPE): A new work contract for under-26s allowing a two-year trial period
In that period, employers can end a contract without explanation
After two years, the CPE reverts to a standard full-time contract
Became law on 2 April, but amendments are expected - employers are being asked not to apply it yet

A spokesman for trade union CGT said that 3.1 million people had turned out nationwide, but police put the figure at just over one million.

Large demonstrations have been taking place in regional centres such as Marseille in the south, and Bordeaux and Nantes in the west.

Organisers said the main rally in Paris, which started on Tuesday afternoon, attracted some 700,000 demonstrators, while the police said the figure was 84,000.

Scuffles broke out towards the end of the rally, with some protesters throwing rocks and bottles at riot police in the Place d'Italie in the south.

Police said nine people were slightly injured in the mostly peaceful march.

Transport is being affected nationwide, although the impact appears weaker than a similar strike a week ago:

  • Civil aviation authorities report some delays at French airports and some internal flights are cancelled

  • Two-thirds of high-speed inter-city rail links are operating normally

  • The Paris metro is operating almost normally and so are buses

Some schools have also closed in response to the unions' call for a general strike.

Truce in sight?

Bernard Thibault, head of trade union CGT, said the action was aimed at getting the law withdrawn as it was now legally in force.

This law gives you a job, now it's up to you to keep it
Trinh, Paris, France

President Jacques Chirac's conservative party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), has signalled further possible climbdowns on the measure.

"We'll be ready as of tomorrow [Wednesday] to receive the unions, to listen to them. There won't be any limits to the talks," UMP parliamentary chief Bernard Accoyer said.

On Friday, President Chirac pledged to shorten from two years to one the period in which young people could be fired, and said employers would need to give a reason for dismissal.

But trade unions say the proposed amendments are unacceptable.

Political rivalry

French newspapers say Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has effectively taken over from Mr de Villepin in the search for a solution.

The two men are tipped as rivals as right-wing candidates to succeed President Chirac in the 2007 presidential election.

Mr de Villepin's poll ratings for his handling of the economy have slumped to the lowest level since he took office nearly a year ago, in a survey released on Tuesday.

Mr de Villepin's government says the law will help tackle high levels of youth unemployment - currently running at more than 20%.

The mood is subdued at the demonstrations

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