More violence feared on 'Black Tuesday' jobs protests

27th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 27, 2006 (AFP) - France is bracing for a "black Tuesday" of strikes and demonstrations against Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's contested youth jobs contract, amid fears that street protests could once again degenerate into violence.

PARIS, March 27, 2006 (AFP) - France is bracing for a "black Tuesday" of strikes and demonstrations against Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's contested youth jobs contract, amid fears that street protests could once again degenerate into violence.

Police promised to provide extra protection at the day's main event — an afternoon march through Paris expected to draw tens of thousands — in order to prevent the muggings and car-burnings that marred the last day of action in the capital on Thursday.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that students taking part in demonstrations could be at risk from gangs operating out of the high-immigration city suburbs hit by last year's riots.

Police and transport authorities were planning heightened surveillance of trains and buses from the Paris outskirts Tuesday, and extra forces were to be deployed in side-streets off the route of the march.

However unions opposed police requests to place plain-clothes officers amid the cortege in order to facilitate arrests.

The fifth day of nationwide protests against the government's First Employment Contract (CPE) is expected to bring much of the country to a standstill, as transport and public sector workers answer union calls for strikes.

One metro in two will be running in the capital, as well as half of suburban rail links, Paris transport officials said. Nationwide the state-owned SNCF rail company said two out of three TGV fast trains will operate, and bus services will be down in more than 70 towns and cities.

The civil aviation authority DGAC warned passengers to expect delays and cancellations.

No newspapers will be published Tuesday and disruption is predicted on state-run radio and television. Schools, post-offices, government offices, unemployment bureaus and some banks could also be hit.

In an increasingly bitter three-week struggle, the government has refused to cede to opposition demands to scrap the CPE, a contract for under 26 year-olds that can be terminated without explanation during a two-year trial period.

Villepin, 52, has staked his political career on winning the showdown with unions, student groups and the political left, who have mounted an escalating campaign of street protests.

According to the government the contract is a vital tool for fighting youth unemployment, which can reach more than 50 percent in the poor city suburbs, but opponents say it is a breach of hard-won labour rights and will make it more difficult than ever for young people to find long-term jobs.

"This is a real crisis now, a social crisis. Everyone can see that if we accept the CPE today, tomorrow the whole our labour code will be up for grabs. It has become the symbol of insecurity," said Jean-Claude Mailly of the Workers' Force (FO) union.

An Ipsos poll for Le Monde newspaper Monday showed that 63 percent of the population disapprove of Villepin's decision to stand by the CPE, and 59 percent said he was mainly responsible for the situation.

Some 60 out of 84 universities remained partially or totally shut, with predictions that exams normally due in May or June may have to be postponed. Many high school students are expected to join Tuesday's protests.

In Thursday's violence gangs of masked youths operating on the fringes of the Paris march attacked property, set fire to cars and mugged passers-by and demonstrating students on the Invalides esplanade. Police made more than 140 arrests.

A union member who was caught in a police baton-charge in a demonstration the previous Saturday remains in a coma.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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