Socialists call no-confidence vote over jobs bill

10th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 9, 2006 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialist Party called a no-confidence motion against the government Thursday after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin forced a controversial jobs bill through parliament without a vote.

PARIS, Feb 9, 2006 (AFP) - France's opposition Socialist Party called a no-confidence motion against the government Thursday after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin forced a controversial jobs bill through parliament without a vote.

The bitter showdown erupted after Villepin resorted to a special constitutional power to have the lower house of parliament adopt a law which included a measure aimed at getting more youths into employment.

The opposition benches, led by the Socialists, had been stalling debate on the bill, arguing that it would weaken France's labour laws and in fact make it more difficult for youths to find long-term jobs.

The bill will now be sent to the upper house for debate.

"I can only note with regret the refusal of the opposition to seriously examine the remaining measures of the bill," Villepin told MPs as he invoked the special procedure.

The tactic showed his determination to have the bill become law, and underscored his priority since becoming prime minister in June last year to bring down France's chronically high unemployment rate.

While the national proportion of jobless is now 9.5 percent — and forecast to drop — among youths the rate is as high as 40 percent in some areas of the country.

But Villepin's bulldozing of MPs to get the law passed was also likely to damage his standing.

While his centre-right government was certain to survive a no-confidence vote thanks to the UMP ruling party's majority in both houses of parliament, public hostility to the proposed law could grow.

On Tuesday, more than 100 demonstrations were held around France protesting the bill, gathering between 150,000 and 300,000 people.

The job measure, known as the First Employment Contract (CPE) and included as part of a wider equal opportunities law, is meant to encourage businesses to take on young workers by relaxing the rules under which they can be sacked during the first two years.

It is the second phase of a government programme to liberalise France's labour code, whose rigidity is often cited by economists as a cause of the country's stubbornly high unemployment.

Joblessness was notably seen as one of the factors behind the November riots in high-immigration suburbs.

The leader of the Socialists in the lower house of parliament, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said "the no-confidence motion will be lodged so that is debated before February 21," following a break scheduled for next week.

The power Villepin used to force through the bill -- article 49 of the French constitution -- stipulates that a law passed under its auspices is considered adopted unless a no-confidence motion shoots it down.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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