[JURIST] French union leaders and student groups hinted Monday that they might be willing to re-enter negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin a day after the law establishing the so-called First Employment Contract (CPE) [text, JURIST news archive] took effect on its publication in France's official gazette [JURIST report]. President Jacques Chirac [official profile] signed the controversial statute, as he said he would do Friday in a nationally-televised address [JURIST report], but the government immediately contacted employers' organizations asking them to refrain from entering into any CPE contracts until promised amendments to the law are made.
Hundreds of thousands of protestors are nonetheless expected to rally against the law again on Tuesday, following marches across France last week that drew more than a million people [JURIST report]. Reports from Paris suggest that with CPE champion de Villepin now seen as politically damaged, the future of the law may be more or less in the hands of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile], who is known to be less enthusiastic about the legislation [JURIST report] and more willing to compromise with its critics. The law, originally drafted to allow employers to fire workers under the age of 26 without cause during the first two years of employment, is intended to combat France's high youth unemployment rate. AFP has more. Le Figaro has local coverage.