The law creating the First Employment Contract (Contrat Premiere Embauche or CPE) was passed by parliament as part of a broader bill on equal opportunities.
It became law on 2 April, but as the protests escalated President Chirac asked employers not to apply it immediately.
The CPE is a new work contract for under-26s with a two-year trial period. In that period, employers can terminate the contract without having to offer an explanation.
The CPE says that after the first month employers have to give two weeks’ notice for severance of contract, and after six months the notice period is extended to one month.
For other employees, the trial period is usually only one to three months.
After the two-year trial period for under-26s, the CPE reverts to a standard full-time contract.
In a televised address to the nation on 31 March, President Chirac said he was asking the government to modify the CPE, to reduce the trial period to one year and oblige employers to state their reason for any dismissal.
News outlets are predicting that the controversy over and eventual failure of this law spells doomsday for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who championed it.
As a sidenote, after viewing those photos and seeing the images on TV I wonder if de Villepin would view the recent violent protests there as mere “social unrest“?
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