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French PM stubborn about new labour law

The French PM's vow to press on with a new labor law, drew fresh criticism from unions and the opposition Socialists, who said President Jacques Chirac should intervene.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 17:21 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

The French Prime Minister's vow to press on with a new labor law that has sent students into the streets, drew fresh criticism on Monday from unions and the opposition Socialists, who said President Jacques Chirac should intervene.

Speaking in a prime-time interview on Sunday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin tried to assuage critics of the plan to increase jobs among youths with promises of more guarantees.

Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande said, however, that protests risked doubling in size and that Chirac should either support Villepin "or make the decision that the Prime Minister doesn't want to make," which is that of withdrawal of the measure.

"This means that he is opening a conflict ... so Jacques Chirac (must) step in," Hollande said.

The head of a powerful union also reiterated a call for Villepin to kill the plan.

Villepin vowed to work with labor leaders to defuse swelling tensions which reached a peak early on Saturday, when riot police stormed the Sorbonne University to evict students occupying the landmark institution to press a demand that the measure be withdrawn.

"This law will be applied," Villepin said on Sunday, adding that he wants to complement guarantees with new ones negotiated with unions and others. The protests over the jobs contract gave Villepin his toughest labor test yet ,since taking office in June.

"Reducing unemployment at 23 percent among youths has been a priority. In some troubled suburbs, such as those where a wave of rioting broke out last fall -the figure rises to as high as 50 percent," Villepin said.

The outcome of the jobs plan could play a critical role in the run-up to 2007 presidential election.

Villepin has faced calls from fellow conservatives to reassure youths that they will be eligible for access to bank loans, housing and government compensation after the law is enacted. Some have called on Villepin to withdraw the measure.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 15:44 IST