France’s Prime Minister has fended off senior trade union officials over his controversial youth labour law, but the crisis has deepened as student leaders refuse their turn to talk.
So far there is little indication that Dominique de Villepin is about to budge,although after the meeting with union leaders he tried to put an up-beat spin on the gathering. He said the exchange of views had been important between him and the union organisers as it had been the first step towards finding constructive solutions. But Villepin knows that continuing nationwide demonstrations by the country’s youth is denting the popularity of his conservative government and hitting his own potential presidential credentials. A national strike set for Tuesday, called for by union leaders, looks likely to go ahead after the premier’s invitiation to meet student representatives was rejected. Francois Chereque of the CFDT union said that they had all tried to explain to the Prime Minister that everyone is ready to start negotiations but on the condition that he does not impose the new law. But he said the government is refusing to do this. Two weeks of student anger over the law, which critics say will destroy job security, looks far from abating. But the government believes the measure will encourage employers to take on more young people and cut the one-in-four youth unemployment rate.