It looks as though April 11th will be our first strike-free Tuesday in a month. French President Jacques Chirac announced this morning that the new youth employment law at the center of weeks of protests will be abandoned. Chirac said the Contrat Premiere Embauche (CPE)-----which became law on April 2----- will be replaced with other measures designed to fight youth unemployment.
Throughout France, millions of trade union members and students had staged numerous demonstrations and strikes, protesting the law which allowed employers to hire and fire workers under 26 within a two-year trial period. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin had initiated the law to stem high unemployment among youth.
The plan to replace the law was announced after a meeting Monday between the president, prime minister and other senior ministers. In a televised address, de Villepin said the new measures would be presented to the "various sectors concerned" later today. The prime minister said he considers the only way of addressing joblessness is a better balance between employer flexibility and employee security. He said the government has been guided "by one objective: to provide thousands of young people from our society with opportunities for jobs." "I wanted to act very quickly because the dramatic situation and the despair of a number of young people warranted it," de Villepin explained. "This was not understood by everyone, I'm sorry to say." De Villepin said he intends to work for the future of the country and hoped all French people would work together.
Union leaders had threatened further general strikes if the government did not withdraw the CPE by Easter weekend. In response to Chirac's announcement, the deputy leader of the CGT, France's second largest train union told Agence France Presse that the withdrawal of the law was due to "success of the joint action of workers and students, as well as union unity."