Triumphant unions focus May 1 attack on CNE

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 1, 2006 (AFP) - French unions used May 1 demonstrations Monday to keep up pressure on the weakened government to make further concessions over labour reforms.

PARIS, May 1, 2006 (AFP) - French unions used May 1 demonstrations Monday to keep up pressure on the weakened government to make further concessions over labour reforms.

Rallies in Paris, Marseille, Lyon and other cities gathered tens of thousands of people under mostly grey, sometimes rainy skies.

They had a triumphant edge, recalling the unions' victory last month in forcing Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin effectively to scrap a law, called the first employment contract (CPE) that would have made it easier to hire and fire workers under the age of 26.

Flushed with the success of that campaign, several unions used the demonstrations to press their advantage against Villepin, whose hold on power is now tenuous.

Bernard Thibault, head of the hardline CGT union, said "we have to continue the fight against the CNE (new employment contract)," referring to another Villepin reform which has already passed and which affects job contracts in small companies.

A students' union leader, Bruno Julliard, said: "May 1 is above all a day that marks the solidarity of all unions. It's also a day marking the victory of the CPE and it's an occasion to launch new struggles. Getting the CNE withdrawn is a priority for the trade-union movement."

Turnout across the country, however, was much lower than for the sometimes violent street protests that took place in late March and early April against Villepin's CPE law, which at their peak brought out more than a million demonstrators.

Up to 30,000 people joined in the march through central Paris Monday, according to the unions. Police put the number at 15,000.

A total of some 25,000 was estimated to have attended the smaller rallies in other French cities and towns, according to police counts.

Some demonstrators sought to show their opposition to other issues, notably an immigration bill to be presented to parliament Tuesday by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

They were countered, in Paris, by a rally by several thousand members of the National Front, the extreme-right party headed by Jean-Marie Le Pen.

To cries of "Le Pen for president," the party supporters held aloft placards with a map of France and a message to immigrants reading: "Love it or leave it."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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