He is holding firm as another week of protests begins. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin says he is ready for dialogue, but that he will not withdraw his youth jobs plan. His statement came after trade unions called for a one-day general strike on March 28.
He has been boosted by a meeting with industry leaders who support the project and by a resounding endorsement from President Jacques Chirac. But that has not impressed secondary school and university students. They are set to continue demonstrating around the country, forcing classes and lectures to be cancelled. And they are in no mood to back down either, especially after protests at the weekend which brought 1.5 million people onto the streets, according to organisers. Student union activist Ben Leopoldi said “There are seven or eight schools in Marseille that are closed. People are rallying, and I think this will go on all week.” The government says its reform, known as the First Job Contract, will make it easier to hire workers and slash youth unemployment, which stands at 23 percent. Critics argue it will also make it easier to fire employees, as they will be given a two-year trial period instead of a permanent contract.