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Student protests against new French labor law escalate

[JURIST] Protests by students across France increased on Thursday in response to the First Employment Contract (CPE) [FAQ, in French], a controversial labor law which allows employers to hire workers under 26 for a conditional two-year period at the end of which they can be dismissed without cause. The law, which took effect last week and was proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official website] to provide jobs for the nation's highly unemployed 18- to 25-year-old population, has been criticized as diminishing job security. University students also blockaded schools [JURIST report] on Tuesday when violence erupted at the Sorbonne University in Paris, and more protests are planned by French trade unions on Saturday.

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 has filed a challenge in the Constitutional Council [official backgrounder, in English]. President Jacques Chirac [official website, in French; BBC profile] and Villepin have called for discussions with the protesting students and trade unions, but both have also asserted their support [Reuters report] for the CPE as requisite to improve the job market for the nation's youth. BBC News has more. Le Monde has local coverage.

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