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French CPE labor law changes to be announced after Monday tête-à-tête

[JURIST] Changes to the controversial French labor law [JURIST document] establishing the First Employment Contract (contrat premiere embauche, CPE) [JURIST news archive] are expected to be announced Monday after an early-morning meeting between President Jacques Chirac [official profile] and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [official profile]. Villepin's office says he will make a speech on the law at 10:30 AM Paris time. Chirac signed the CPE legislation [JURIST report] last week, but a team has been assigned to draft amendments [JURIST report] to the bill and will also meet with Chirac on Monday. Despite widespread opposition to the CPE [official backgrounder], the government, led by de Villepin, has refused to abandon the new law altogether.

Meanwhile, unions and student groups continue to protest [JURIST report] the measure, which currently creates an age-based exception to traditional French labor regulations by allowing workers who were under 26 years of age at the time of hiring to be fired without cause at any time during the first two years of their employment. It was thought that such an "employment-at-will provision" would encourage hiring and lower France's youth unemployment rate, running at about 22 percent and over 50 percent among immigrant youth in some areas. Labor and student leaders have threatened more strikes and mass demonstrations unless the government absolutely withdraws the law [JURIST report] by April 17. AFP has more.

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