Saturday, March 18, 2006

The French Riots

It's a different world over there. Here we seem to accept anything the administration doles out and if we don't, well, who would know about it, given the obedient media. In France people go out and demonstrate:

Huge crowds of students, trade unionists and left-wingers took to the streets across France on Saturday to put pressure on the conservative government to cancel a new law they fear will undermine job security for young workers.

In a festive mood under bright blue skies, tens of thousands turned out in Paris, Lyon and Rennes in the biggest of 160 planned demonstrations in a growing movement that has created a serious crisis for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Trade union crowd marshals and ranks of riot police kept discreet but watchful eyes on the crowds to avoid any repetition of the violence that marred a Paris student rally on Thursday.

The protesters demand that Villepin withdraw a new youth job contract, known as the CPE, which lets firms fire workers under 26 without explanation in their first two years on the job. He launched it to spur reluctant employers to take on new staff.

"I risk working for two years for nothing, just to be fired at any moment," said Paris student Coralie Huvet, 20, who had "No to the CPE" written on her forehead. Pointing to painted-on tears, she added: "That's depressing, that's why I'm crying."

Organizers, who decry the CPE as a "Kleenex contract" that lets young workers be "thrown away like a paper tissue," said they hoped to have up to 1.5 million people out marching in the third national protest in six weeks.

France's main trade union leaders led the Paris march, followed by dancing and singing high school and university students and then ranks of workers.

Opposition Socialist and Communist politicians also joined the protest, only the third time in almost four decades -- after 1968 and 1994 -- that students and workers marched together.

Many parents accompanied their children in the march, where banners declared "No to throw-away youths" and "Tired Of Being Squeezed Lemons."

In the United States lots of workers can be thrown away like used Kleenex, of course, or at least squeezed very dry like lemons.

The rationale for the French government's policy is to make the young more employable by taking away the risk that an untried worker might not prove satisfactory and that the firm might then be stuck with that person. But the new policy would make it difficult for the young to plan for their own futures or to decide to have children, say. They are left with the risk of being fired, even if the firing has nothing to do with their own competence at the job, and if I were one of those young people I'd postpone marriage and children until I'm past the vulnerable age limit. So all this could backfire on the French conservative policy of having more white babies and stuff.