Student union leaders have described Jacques Chirac’s address to the nation as provocative. In it he said that while he will sign the youth labour law, he will make some modifications, including reducing the trial period from two years to one. Bruno Julliard is head of the main student association, the UNEF. He said: “I think that the strategy of the president of the republic is ‘everything or nothing’, ‘make or break’. “He is taking a considerable risk because the social tensions are already very high. The exasperation of the demonstrators, of the young people, of the employees, of the parents, is also very strong. And now he is throwing oil on the fire.”The opposition Socialists say in trying to improve the situtaion, Chirac has made it worse. “To resolve the situation, Jacques Chirac should’ve been clear,” said Socialist leader Francois Hollande. “There was one decision to take: don’t sign the law and therefore withdraw what we call article eight, the first employment contract, the CPE. Instead of doing that he signs the law and announces he’s going to talk with social partners – which at the moment don’t want to – and spark more opposition to the law. I really believe he’s complicated something that should’ve been simplified.” Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister and possible presidential candidate said he’d been calling for a compromise for weeks. He said: “The president responded to that wish by speaking solemnly to the nation, demanding that the part of the law relating to the CPE not be applied until there’s a new legal text that modifies it. I salute this decision, which is a wise one.” France has the highest rate of unemployment among the under 26s than anywhere else in Western Europe, with nearly one in four out of work.
French student leaders dismiss youth labour law changes