High schools hit hard in youth jobs protests

21st March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - Protests over the French government's contested youth employment law spread from universities to hundreds of secondary schools Tuesday, amid warnings of a growing threat to public order in Paris suburbs.

PARIS, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - Protests over the French government's contested youth employment law spread from universities to hundreds of secondary schools Tuesday, amid warnings of a growing threat to public order in Paris suburbs.

According to the FIDL union of secondary school students, some 25 percent of the country's 4,370 lycées were hit by total or partial closures as part of the campaign against Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's First Employment Contract (CPE).

"The mobilisation in the lycées is growing," the FIDL said.

There were no government figures on school closures, but in Paris the education authorities said 28 out of 110 lycées were closed or experiencing disturbances.

In the Seine-Saint-Denis area of the northern Paris suburbs — where last November's riots started — 25 out of 64 lycées were affected, and police said they were increasingly concerned about the threat of violent incidents.

Cars were set alight overnight in the neighbourhood of Drancy and there were scuffles between lycée students and riot police during the morning, police said. At La Courneuve a lycée was attacked by stone-throwers.

"We've passed a turning-point today. Youngsters are wandering about the streets in groups trying to get other students to come out, and they're not hesitating to seek out confrontation with the police or to nick things from shops on the way," a police officcer told AFP.

In the Essonne area of the southern Paris suburbs police used tear-gas to disperse a crowd of some 400 lycée students who were hurling stones at them in the town of Savigny-sur-Orge.

Protests against the CPE continued to hit universities, with the education ministry saying that 15 were completely shut Tuesday and a further 41 experiencing disturbances.

Student groups have called for a day of action in lycées and universities on Thursday, and a nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations has been announced by trade unions for next Tuesday.

A new contract for under 26-year-olds that can be broken off during a two year trial period, the CPE is attacked by opponents as a breach of hard-won labour rights.

The government says it is a tool for bringing down youth unemployment, which is more than 50 percent in the poor high-immigration areas hit by November's riots.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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