PARIS - More than 1 million people poured into the streets across France and strikers disrupted air, rail and bus travel Tuesday — even shutting down the Eiffel Tower — in the largest nationwide protest over a youth labor law.
Scattered violence erupted in Paris, and riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand youths who pelted them with stones and bottles after an otherwise peaceful march. More than 240 people were arrested.
Unions and the leftist opposition joined in solidarity with the angry students for the one-day strike, increasing the pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to withdraw the measure that makes it easier to fire young workers.
Well, yes, it does make it easier to fire young workers, but you can only be fired from a job after you've been hired. Otherwise you're just a ne'er-do-well, a slacker.
Students and labor unions say the labor law will erode France's cherished workplace protections. Set to take effect next month, it would let companies fire employees under 26 without reason in the first two years on the job.
Villepin says the greater flexibility will encourage companies to hire young workers, who face a 22 percent unemployment rate — the highest in Western Europe. But as protests have grown, his government — and his chances of running for president next year — have appeared increasingly fragile.
Now, obviously, the potential exists for French companies to abuse these "disposable" workers. But part of France's high structural unemployment and anemic economic growth is the difficulty that companies have in firing workers. As a result the companies are justifiably wary about taking on a young worker with no track record. At the very least, even if the employer does abuse the privilege and fire workers without cause, that worker will now actually have a work track record when he or she seeks a second job.
"We are here for our children. We are very worried about what will happen to them," said Philippe Decrulle, an Air France flight attendant at the Paris protest. "My son is 23, and he has no job. That is normal in France."
As I said, explain the French. Please.
Aside: Congratulations on 100k, Mr. Right. I'm glad I could be a part of it. Let's go get 200k!