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Comentari :: educació i societat : laboral
French Universities occupied, Protests against 鈥渟lave鈥? contracts of employment
18 mar 2006
On 16 March, 64 French universities, out of 84, were on strike.
This huge movement of young people started in January. Why?
The French government, and its prime minister Dominique de Villepin, have imposed a new act: the â淟oi sur lâégalité des chancesâ? (Equal Opportunities Act!!).
The law was passed in a way that sidestepped the debate and discussion that is a traditional part of the legislative process in France, a special procedure known as Article 49.3 of the French Constitution.
This law:
-     creates a â減arental responsibility contractâ? (your children donâ檛 go to school regularly, well, pay a fine and say goodbye to your family allowances),
-     lower the legal compulsory age of school (16 to 14) to allow 14 years old teenagers to become apprentice,
-     allows night-work for 15 years old teenagers.
-     creates different shit working contracts. One of them is called CPE (Contrat Première Embauche, or First Employment Contract).

Contracts of employment
To understand the CPE, you have to know that in France there is legally speaking (not in the real world obviously...) two main contracts of employment: the CDI (contract with no specified end date) and CDD (contract with a specified end date).
Under French law, the employer has usually only one to three months (probationary period) to terminate the employment of a new employee without having to provide a reason. After that, French labor law provides protection for the employee so that employment isnâ檛 ended without objective cause.
The CPE applies to those under 26 years of age who find a new job. It gives the employer the right to terminate the new hireâ檚 employment within TWO YEARS without having to give any reason. For two years, every morning, you donâ檛 know if you will still have the job the next day.
Last August a similar law was put into effect that applied only to employers with less than 20 paid employees. There are many instances of workers protesting they lost their jobs unfairly under this law: they were late for 5 minutes, pregnant, or they claimed their money for overtime...
Those contracts bring us back to the situation existing before 1973 when lay-offs did not have to be justified.

Insecure work, insecure life
The unemployment rate in France is an estimated 10 percent of the French population. This includes at least 20 percent of young people who do not have jobs. Needless to say that it is impossible, for example, to find an appartment with shit working contracts as the CPE/CNE.
You have probably heard about riots in France last November, spearheaded by young workers in the poor suburbs. Everything is connected. Because young people and people in the suburbs generally are the first to suffer from these types of policies.
Because they â and we â know that for governments and companies we are nothing, we are simply dust, the kind you brush away and only notice in order to get rid of.
Because we know that unemployment and insecure jobs are powerful tools to control us, to force us to accept shit jobs, low incomes and bad working conditions. You donâ檛 want this job? Fair enough, there is a reserve army waiting for your position, with even lower wages! Even stable jobs are insecure, because we are so afraid of loosing them (and join women and men in this reserve army of labour), because the only idea of happiness we have learned is getting a big car and TV, expensive clothes, and for that we have to pay our bills and our debts.

A student movement
At the moment, the movement is limited to students and is supported by some trade unions. Some people argue for a practical coming together of this movement and the movement of people involved in the riots few months ago. We can only hope this will happen.
French students are organised in a National Coordination which meets every one or two weeks in a different university. At its last meeting, in Poitiers on 11 March, more than 250 delegates attended from over 60 education institutions (universities and others). As with previous coordinations, they demanded the abolition of CPE, the whole â淓qual Opportunities Actâ?, and the CNE as well!
Recently, the Coordination of the University Heads asked the governement a 6 months delay for the implementation of the CPE. They pretend this is for negociation with young people organisations. But everyone knows this is only to report the implementation until summer hollydays, to break the movement. The right wing governement is of course saying that they will never withdraw this act, but people know that the left wing, pretending to support the struggle, will impose exactly the same type of shit contract as soon as they will be in charge, as they have always done.

Universities are on strike and are closed. Days of actions alternate with days of marches and protests. As in 1968, the Sorbonne University in Paris was occupied, but the CRS (â渁nti-riotâ? police) kicked them out. This was merely symbolic, and plenty of universities are still occupied. In Paris, during the last weeks, incredible spontaneous protests gathered between 2000 and 4000 people. This Saturday, 18 march, there has been again huge demonstrations in the whole country (1 500 000 people).

As it was with the last november riots, people are fighting together, people feel they are breathing, they communicate, they are doing something for themselves.

Papidan, a former french student now in London
If you have any comments, or if my english is not clear, contact me.
papidan ARROBA

To follow, in english, what is happening in France, see the very up-to-date websites

For more informations (in french)

This work is in the public domain


Re: French Universities occupied, Protests against 鈥渟lave鈥? contracts of employment
24 mar 2006
en el siguiente enlace, teneis información sobre lo que está pasando en español...

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