Across France, hundreds of thousands of protesters have poured onto the streets to denounce a new law aimed at getting the young back to work. Those taking part share the general objective.
But for them the government’s flagship employment law will make a bad situation worse. The rallies have come on a national day of disruption, with a strike affecting areas such as schools, public transport, post offices and banks. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has renewed calls for talks. But the government first needs to listen, according to student leader Julie Coudry. She said that despite being told for over a month that the CPE jobs contract was not wanted, the government made an invitation to dialogue on the condition that the measure was accepted. “Public opinion, the unions, the protesters must be taken into account,” she said. “This is a democratic form of expression and it must be considered by those who govern the country.” Her views are shared by many involved in the protests. “Mr Villepin is open to dialogue but, in the end, he is not really listening to us because we are forced to go on demonstrating,” said another protester in Paris. Pressure on the premier has also grown within the ruling conservative party. Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy – a likely rival for the 2007 presidential race – has called for the measure not to be applied during negotiations. He met police in Paris ahead of today’s demonstration where some violence has broken out.