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France students blockade universities to protest youth labor law

[JURIST] Students at 59 [UNEF press release, in French] of France's 84 universities went on strike Tuesday, occupying and blockading about 50 of them in protest against a new law proposed by the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website] that would allow companies to fire workers under the age of 26 within the first two years with little notice or severance. De Villepin stood firm [JURIST report] on the plan in a televised interview [TF1 recorded video] Sunday, and President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday that he supports the legislation, which was voted on and approved in Parliament on March 9.

Several unions and student organizations say the law encourages the replacement of staff and is hard on young workers. Protesters say they will continue pressure until the government gives in and revokes the law. The opposition Socialist party says the law is unconstitutional and plans to challenge it in the Constitutional Council [official backgrounder]. Bloomberg has more.

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