There were violent clashes in Paris as a hardcore of protesters, angry at new labour laws, confronted police. Around 200 demonstrators began throwing bottles, cans and pieces of wood. They also tore down road signs and smashed car windows. Officers responded with tear gas.
Unions had deployed their own teams in a bid to keep order during the demonstration, which it is estimated brought together over 30,000 people. School pupils joined French students across the country in rallies and marches.
They claim the new CPE, or first job contract, will take away job protection and make them more vulnerable.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin argues the contract will make it easier for employers to take on staff, thereby cutting high youth unemployment.
“Everyone’s got to get involved, the schools are blockaded. The schools are important, not just the universities, because it’s our future, it’s us,” said one teenage girl.
The CPE is a two year contract that can only be given to under 26-year-olds.
The most controversial clause allows employers to lay-off staff without explanation.
President Jaques Chirac has appealed for talks.
Unions say momentum is building against the law and even bigger demonstrations are planned for the weekend.