[JURIST] French students and union members staged sporadic "victory marches" Tuesday to celebrate the government's withdrawal of the First Employment Contract (contrat premiere embauche, CPE) [JURIST news archive] as legislators prepared for a vote on a replacement $180M job training and subsidization package that could come as early as Wednesday [Bloomberg report]. Protest leaders are attempting to keep up pressure [JURIST report] on the government to do away with the entire law on equality of opportunity [PDF] that contained the contested labor contract in Article 8 [JURIST document], but prospects for that may be slim as the latest marches drew but a fraction of the support seen for the anti-CPE campaign, with a mere 41,000 demonstrating across France [Le Monde report] - 2,300 in Paris - as compared to the throngs of between 1 and 3 million [JURIST report] that had gathered in previous weeks to oppose the initial youth jobs law.
The CPE created an age-based exception to traditional French labor regulations by allowing workers who were under 26 years of age at the time of hiring to be fired without cause at any time during the first two years of their employment. It was thought that such an "employment-at-will" provision would encourage hiring and lower France's youth unemployment rate, running at about 22 percent and over 50 percent among immigrant youth in some areas. The measure was signed into law [JURIST report] by President Jacques Chirac earlier this month before its replacement [JURIST report] was dramatically announced Monday in separate statements by Chirac and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. AP has more.