Humiliated Chirac backs down on bid for hiring flexibility

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventThe cancellation of the law, which Chirac had signed April 2, is aimed in large part at bringing an end to two months of major protests and strikes throughout France that have brought violent clashes between young people and the police, shut down universities and threatened to hurt tourism and the economy. Still, a student protest march scheduled for today will proceed as planned, and students at several French universities, voting Monday to continue blocking access to classes, demanded more concessions from the government in work practices and job security. “Today is a defining victory but there are still many issues outstanding,” said Bruno Julliard, who heads UNEF, the main student union. The new law was intended to give employers a simpler way of hiring workers under age 26 on a trial basis without immediately exposing companies to the cumbersome and costly benefits that make hiring and firing such a daunting enterprise. Opposition to the law reflects the deep-rooted fear among the French of losing their labor and social protection in a globalized world. In a television interview Monday evening on TF1, a private channel, Villepin, who had been widely touted as a possible center-right candidate in the May 2007 presidential elections, said he hoped to learn lessons from what he called “an extremely difficult time” and contended he had never harbored presidential aspirations. His sober, subdued demeanor contrasted sharply with his defiant and angry stance in defense of the law in speeches before parliament recently, when he had proclaimed that the future of the youths of France was at stake and vowed not to back down. Both in his television interview Monday and in a brief televised address earlier in the day, Villepin blamed the French people’s fears and anxiety for defeating the measure. “The necessary conditions of confidence and calm are not there, either among young people or companies,” de Villepin said. The abolition of the law was announced, without fanfare, in a terse, one-sentence communique from the Elysee Palace: “Under the proposal of the prime minister and after having heard the presidents of the parliamentary groups and the officials of the parliamentary majority, the president of the Republic has decided to replace Article 8 of the law on equality of opportunities by a mechanism in favor of the professional integration of young people in difficulty.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PARIS – President Jacques Chirac crumbled under pressure from students, unions, business executives and even some of his own party leaders Monday, announcing that he would rescind a disputed youth labor law intended to make hiring more flexible. The retreat was a humiliating political defeat for both Chirac and his political protege, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, underscoring the paralysis of their center-right government 13 months before presidential elections. It also laid bare the deep popular resistance to liberalizing France’s rigid labor market. Any new economic reform appeared politically impossible before a new government is in place – and perhaps not even then. “Dead and buried” is how Jean-Claude Mailly, leader of the leftist union Force Ouvriere, described the fate of the labor law. “The goal has been achieved.” last_img