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Approximately two thirds of France's universities ceased their activities for several days following students' protest against the first-employment contract (CPE), a situation that eventually led to the general strike of 28th March, in which students and trade unions united to demand the withdrawal of the CPE. The demonstrations were quite powerful in that they affected not only the education sector, but also public services.
The contract, that has been conceived of in order to favour access to first employment for the under 25, makes it possible for employers to dismiss staff employed under such contract in the course of its two-year duration without notice and without justifying the dismissal.
In the eyes of the French Government the CPE would not only facilitate young graduates’ entry in the job market, it would also absorb the current unemployment rate amongst the under 25 by diminishing the period young people go through before finding stable employment (according to figures, it takes 8 to 11 years before young people find stable employment).
The protesters, however, believe this type of contract would only plunge young people into precariousness and that their rights as workers would be undermined, since one is less likely to stand for one’s rights if faced with the risk of being fired. To the protester’s eyes, the CPE represents Prime Minister de Villepin’s first step towards a profound reform of the Code du Travail.Prime Minister de Villepin's web portal