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France could water down youth job law in face of protests

[JURIST] French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website; BBC profile] indicated Tuesday that he might back off from his previous insistence [JURIST report] on a provision of the First Employment Contract (CPE) [FAQ, in French] he guided through Parliament earlier this month that would allow employers to fire any worker under 26 years old without cause during the first two years on the job. Instead, he may shorten the trial period to 12 months and require employers to explain job dismissals.

While President Jacques Chirac supports the bill [Washington Post report] as an "important element" in the fight against youth unemployment, which is currently at 23 percent, labor unions say the law would create a "generation of disposable workers." Labor unions and teachers have already protested the legislation [JURIST report] in demonstrations across France, with a rally in Paris ending Saturday in a clash with riot police [JURIST report] where 167 people were arrested. Unions are organizing a one-day nationwide strike for March 28 [JURIST report], which the entire public sector is expected to join. Reuters has more. Le Monde has local coverage [in French].

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