15 March 2006

Sixty-three universities on strike; 50 occupied by students, says UNEF

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Most French universities were blockaded today as thousands of students protested against Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's new labor law. Unions and student organisations, including Unef, the country's largest, say the law, which allows companies to fire workers under 26 within the first two years of employment with little notice or severance, encourages the replacement of staff and is hard on the young.

In one of the biggest challenges faced by de Villepin in his 10 months as the head of the government, universities in Marseille, Bordeaux, Grenoble and Rennes joined Paris to intensify pressure on him to revoke the law. De Villepin introduced the ``first employment contract,'' known by its French acronym CPE, to loosen labor laws, arguing it would increase flexibility and cut unemployment, which is 9.6 percent nationwide and 22.8 percent among the young. Labor unions plan more protests on March 16 and March 18.
``We'll go on until the government gives in,'' said Nadjet Boubekeur, a 25-year-old history student in Paris, and Unef spokeswoman. ``If protests continue long enough, the easiest way out for them will be to repeal the law.''
Click here for ongoing reports in English (the source is libcom.org - I can't vouch for their objectivity, but it appears that reports and photos are being posted frequently.)


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