France: Day of anti-CPE protest begins

While the government wavers between firmness and conciliation, thousands of demonstrators are taking to the streets this Saturday in France with the aim of forcing prime minister Domenique de Villepin to back down over the first employment contract (CPE).

PARIS (Reuters) - The trade unions, who joined the student movements and high-school pupils, hope to mobilize nearly one and a half million people, a greater number than for the previous demonstrations of February 7 and March 7.

Approximately 160 marches are planned in France, with regional demonstrations in the principal cities for the third national day of demonstrations in six weeks. The Parisian demonstration was due to begin in the early afternoon at Denfert-Rochereau and continue to the place de la Nation. But thousands of demonstrators, many from several provincial towns, like Lyon and Toulouse arrived this morning and have already taken to the streets, with their slogan "All together", particularly visible.

Friday, Jacques Chirac expressed a wish that a dialogue could open "as quickly as possible" after two months of conflict. But with a series of surveys showing the support of a majority of the French, the opponents of the CPE are demanding the withdrawal of the legislation before any negotiations. The show of force on Thursday (250.000 demonstrators according to authorities', double according to UNEF), did not make Domenique de Villepin back down.

Though the withdrawal of the CPE is not being discussed, the government is working hard to find a way out of this crisis and the extent of the day of Saturday could prove to be crucial in forming their judgement of how to do so. The Presidents of universities called for suspension of the CPE on Friday evening, before the beginning of negotiations on the training and employment of young people.

The Prime Minister seems "reflecting at the moment" on the appropriateness of a phase such consultations, declared Yannick Vallée, first vice-president of the Conference of the University Presidents (CPU), at the end of a meeting in Matignon.

At the same time, Domenica de Villepin defended the "freedom to study" whilst many university campuses are still blockaded by students. On the part of the trade unions, Bernard Thibault held up the threat of a strike day across France if the government did not withdraw the CPE. "If he forces us, it will be necessary to discuss stops of work across the whole of the country for a day. This is of course still hypothetical", declared the secretary-general of the CGT.

"We cannot allow dismissal without reason to be established in France, that does not exist in any other European country", he affirmed. If they are not heard, the trade unions (CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC, Cfe-cgc, Unsa, Solidaires, FSU), students and secondary-school pupils (Unef, Fidl, UNL) intend "to pass at the higher speed". They are to take stock on Saturday evening of the potential "continuations" of their anti-CPE actions.

Translated for from: reuters france

Posted By

jef costello
Mar 18 2006 11:21


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