French PM rejects union call to scrap new jobs law

TALKS between Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, and trade union leaders over a controversial new youth labour law broke down yesterday in less than an hour after the government refused to bow to demands that the measure be scrapped.

Protests over the law - called the CPE - saw rioting in Paris on Thursday night and a national strike is now planned for Tuesday.

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"We all tried to make the prime minister understand that we were ready to open negotiations on condition that he does not impose the CPE upon us," said Franois Chereque, the general secretary of the moderate CFDT union, as he left yesterday's meeting.

Mr de Villepin's refusal to withdraw the CPE - which allows employers to fire anyone aged under 26 without any prior warning or explanation during a two-year trial period - received the backing of the president, Jacques Chirac, who had said earlier he would not accept ultimatums in a democracy.