End job law in 10 days or face chaos, French PM told
French unions and student leaders yesterday gave the government 10 days to scrap its youth employment law, or face renewed strikes and protests.
Roused by 3 million demonstrators on the streets this week, union leaders yesterday met the ruling conservative UMP party, which is deeply divided and desperate to find a way out of the crisis without appearing to cave in.
The 12 unions said in a joint statement that if the government’s “first employment law” was not revoked by April 17, the French parliament’s Easter break, they would step up protests which have seen hundreds of universities and high schools blockaded for weeks. Asked what they would do if the deadline was not met, unions said that nothing was ruled out.
The law, pushed through parliament by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, without a debate last month, would spare businesses France’s rigid employment laws by allowing them to take on workers under-26 in the knowledge they could let them go after two years. President Jacques Chirac last week signed the law but amended the probation period to a year and said that firms must state their reasons.
Unions insist on scrapping the law but agreed to talks masterminded by the interior minister, presidential pretender and UMP leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. After meeting UMP politicians yesterday, one trade union leader, FranÃ§ois Chereque, said: “They had nothing to say.”
Mr de Villepin, whose presidential hopes have been dented by the crisis, told parliament yesterday he would “draw the necessary conclusions” from the union talks. Some media said it was a veiled resignation threat, others said it was unclear.
Although Mr Chirac urged students and pupils to return to class, protests and school blockades continued.