French Students Plan More Nationwide Protests Against Labor Law

French Students Plan More Nationwide Protests Against Labor Law

PARIS

      French students mobilized last week for renewed nationwide protests against a new labor law, as the government sought to keep its ranks from fracturing and university presidents urged negotiations.

      Tens of thousands of students, supported by France’s powerful unions, were expected to turn out for the protests, which have escalated in recent weeks and stunned Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s government with their fury.

      President Jacques Chirac urged talks between ministers and labor leaders. Villepin, taking the brunt of the fallout, rallied ministers around the contested law at a government meeting and opened a line of communication with protesters.

      Classes have been disrupted or halted in universities around the country since last week. Students occupied the Sorbonne in Paris over the weekend, and in Rennes, the main university has been shuttered for weeks as students boycott classes to protest the law.

      The most contested piece of the legislation, passed by parliament last week, is a job contract that allows employers to fire young employees within their first two years on a job without giving a reason.

      It was instituted to help less privileged youths find jobs, but students fear it will erode coveted labor protections and leave the young by the wayside.

      The prime minister has refused to withdraw the measure but was seeking ways to make it more palatable.

      The opposition Socialists were to present an alternative plan to boost youth employment. Presidents of 46 of the country’s 88 universities met Wednesday evening in Nantes, in western France, and asked the government to come up with a solution.

      Chirac urged dialogue between ministers and labor leaders, but the unions pressed their demand that the government suspend the new job contract before any talks could begin.

      — Associated Press



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