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French labor law prompts nationwide strikes, huge demonstrations

[JURIST] Transit workers, postal staff, teachers and media employees went on strike and more than a million people demonstrated across France [JURIST news archive] Tuesday as part of escalating protests against the First Employment Contract (CPE) [FAQ, in French; official backgrounder, in English; JURIST news archive], a contentious labor law passed by the French parliament earlier this month that allows employers to fire workers under 26 years old without cause during the first two years of employment. The French Interior Ministry said more than 1,000,000 people marched to show their opposition to the law, while unions organizing the protests claimed as many as 3,000,000 people demonstrated. In Paris, police scuffled with demonstrators at the end of a rally there, leading to more than a hundred arrests.

The First Employment Contract has triggered a string of protests by many who fear the law will increase unemployment among younger workers. Many have called for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official profile, in English] to cancel the legislation before it takes effect at the beginning of April. Talks between de Villepin and union leaders broke down [JURIST report] over the weekend. Supporters have argued the law will give employers more control under France's traditionally tight job security laws. The Guardian has more. Le Monde has local coverage.

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