Crisis timeline: the French youth jobs law
PARIS, April 13, 2006 (AFP) - Following is a chronology of the turmoil that has unfolded since French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin unveiled plans for a new youth jobs contract:
January 16: Villepin announces the creation of a new employment contract for under-26-year-olds allowing them to be fired without explanation in the first two years.
January 19: A dozen groups representing young people and students demand the withdrawal of the scheme.
February 7: Between about 200,000 and 400,000 people attend union-organised demonstrations across France to protest against the contract.
February 10: The government forces the employment law through the lower house of parliament, using a constitutional measure that allows it to cut short parliamentary debate.
March 1: France’s upper house passes the new legislation. Thirteen universities go on strike.
March 7: Between 400,000 and a million people join demonstrations across France called by the trade and students’ unions.
March 9: Parliament formally adopts the new employment legislation. De Villepin says it will be implemented “within weeks”.
March 10: The Sorbonne University in Paris is occupied by several hundred students. Riot police go in overnight to evacuate the building.
March 12: Villepin says the contract will go ahead but agrees to “complete” it with “new guarantees” to be negotiated.
March 14: The Socialist Party appeals against the new contract to France’s Constitutional Council, the state body that ensures new laws comply with the constitution.
March 16: Between about 250,000 and 500,000 students demonstrate across France. Violence erupts at some protests.
March 18: Between 530,000 and 1.5 million demonstrators take to the streets. In Paris, 52 people are injured, including 34 police and a union member who falls into a coma.
March 21: 40,000 people protest. Paris riot police clash with rioters outside the Sorbonne university. Villepin says he will not withdraw, suspend or distort the law.
March 23: Between 220,000 and 450,000 high school and university students protest against the law. Some 420 people are arrested. In Paris, masked rioters — apparently separate from the main march — throw stones and metal bars at firemen, smash shop windows and set cars alight.
March 24: President Jacques Chirac says the law must be applied. Villepin meets trade unions but refuses to withdraw the law.
March 27: Villepin invites the major unions and student groups for talks to discuss improvements to the law. The invitation is rejected.
March 28: More than one million protesters take to the streets of France — one of the biggest demonstrations in modern French history — to demand the jobs law be scrapped. Police arrest 387 people nationwide, including more than 200 trouble makers on the sidelines of the march in Paris. Villepin says he is open to “modifications” of the law but, again, he will not withdraw it.
March 29: Unions and student groups set a new day of protests for April 4. Unions send a letter to Chirac urging him to stop the law going into force.
March 30: Constitutional Council rules that the law conforms with the 1958 constitution.
March 31: Chirac signs the law, but in a television address proposes new legislation to modify it, reducing the easy-fire period to one year and requiring employers to give a reason for dismissing a young worker.
April 1: A poll indicates that two thirds of French people are not persuaded by Chirac’s proposal. The opposition socialist party calls for the first time for people to turn out en masse against the contract at a nationwide strike on Tuesday. Socialist leader François Hollande says he will fight for the abrogation rather than the modification of the contract. The issue forges unity between France’s traditionally quarrelsome left-wing parties for the first time in years.
April 3: Villepin’s rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, as head of the ruling Union for a Popular Majority (UMP), is placed in charge of negotiations with unions on ending the crisis.
April 4: A new national day of action against the law starts with limited disruption to public transport, but with some 200 protest marches scheduled across the country.
April 5: Unions set the government an Easter deadline to withdraw the law or face fresh mass protests.
April 6: Villepin rules out resigning over the crisis. UMP leaders begin consultations with unions and student groups on a new law to supersede the CPE.
April 10: President Jacques Chirac announces decision to abandon the youth contract and replace it with new measures for helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into work.
April 12: France’s lower house National Assembly approves the new employment measures replacing the CPE.
April 13: France’s upper house Senate approves the new employment measures replacing the CPE. The new measures will cost EUR 450 million over two years, according to government estimates.
Subject: French news