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French Government Attempts to Impose Two-Tiers on Working Class


This month (March 2006), over a million ordinary French citizens have been protesting the French Government's new discriminatory labour law known as CPE, the "Contrat Premiere Embauche" (First Employment Contract).

Despite heavy handed police actions (police forcibly broke up a peaceful protest and entered a university) the people vow to continue the struggle to get the law changed.

A number of public figures have joined in the protests, including the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe; the Socialist party leader, Francois Hollande; a former culture minister, Jack Lang; and the Communist Party leader, Marie-George Buffet.

Ordinarily, French labour law protects its workers from termination without cause after a 1 month probationary period. But this law, which was passed without the usual democratic debate and discussion, permits employers to terminate new hires under the age of 26 within two years, without having to give any reason. This is clearly unjust, quite apart from the obvious age discrimination.

Unemployment in France is estimated to be about 10 percent overall and at about 20 percent in the group targeted for this discriminatory legislation. The government's response to this unemployment situation is to punish the victims of the crime, instead of looking for real answers in the failure of the capitalist system to benefit anyone other than the capitalist owning class and their cronies the politicians.

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Not only is this law immediately abusive of young worker's rights but it also ensures creative abuse by employers, who now have a built in incentive to fire these workers before the two years are up, so that they can be replaced with other insecure workers, thus attempting to guarantee a docile work force that will be unable to complain or organize, and therefore be subject to all sorts of arrogant mistreatment from their employers.

Another aspect of this draconian law is that landlords in Paris and other urban areas, generally require tenants to have secure employment, thus adding to the difficulty of finding accommodation for those under age 26.

A similar law, known as the "Contrat Nouvelle Embauche" (CNE) that applied only to operations with less than 20 employees, was introduced last August, and already there are many instances of workers protesting that they have lost their jobs unfairly.

While the government is cynically promoting this ridiculous law as an attempt to improve job opportunities for the young, the western press is jumping on the band wagon by projecting an image of the protesters as lazy and ungrateful troublemakers. But the fact is this law does nothing to increase job opportunities, it does not create one new job, it does nothing to prevent the capital, created by the French worker and now firmly in the hands of the capitalist, from fleeing the country to finance ventures abroad in order to export jobs to third world countries with impoverished wage rates. All that it does is shuffle the burden of unemployment from one arena to another, in an attempt to divide the working class, while increasing job insecurity in order to assist the owning class in their ongoing effort to bleed the workers dry.

In Solidarity,
John Barker

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Mar 2006