First, I should note that both ARC:Brian and I are conspiring from an undisclosed location. Needless to say, we're behind enemy lines, but have kept our profile low over the past few days.
Now, whenever I'm searching for something to comment on, the International Herald Tribune (aka the international NYTimes w/o the b.s. TimeSelect) always provides the cure. Apparently, even Dominique de Villepin is too hard core for the cheese-eating surrender monkeys:
Even those it's supposed to help, it seems, oppose French jobs law
By Katrin Bennhold International Herald Tribune
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2006
CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France Donga Brahim is the kind of young person Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin might have had in mind when he drew up a new labor law that has set off student protests across France.
Brahim, 21, a Frenchman of Malian descent, left high school without a diploma. For the last three years he has struggled to make ends meet via short- term contracts followed by bouts of unemployment.
His world in Clichy-sous-Bois, the rundown immigrant suburb northeast of Paris where last year's riots started, could not be further from that of the students blockading most of France's universities. But Brahim is just as opposed as they are to the new labor law, which seeks to encourage companies to hire young people by making it easier to lay them off.
"The students are also demonstrating for us," he said, leaning against a friend's dilapidated car outside a row of suburban tower blocks. Like the protesters, he says he believes the law will make young people more vulnerable to losing their jobs. "This is not about color or about whether you are in the suburbs or not," he said. "This is about all young people - white, black and Arab."
For Villepin, who has made the new law a symbol of his leadership, this could be about his political future. The Gaullist prime minister faces a crucial week, with protests against the legislation growing stronger by the day and even those it was designed to help speaking out against it.
The measure was conceived in the wake of the November riots, which took place in neighborhoods with jobless rates that sometimes reach 40 percent among the young. Passed last week and due to take effect in April, it created a new contract allowing employers who hire people under the age of 26 to fire them without justification during the first two years.
This sharp departure from standard French ideas about job security was pounced on by students and labor union members, who marched in the hundreds of thousands last week to protest the law. Villepin's political opponents have joined the fray, with the opposition Socialists vehemently denouncing the law and even some politicians on the right now questioning its wisdom.
Villepin went on television Sunday night and refused to withdraw the law, sparking new protests by students. The disturbances have disrupted about 45 French campuses, the Education Ministry said, and a growing number of deans are calling for the legislation to be suspended. More nationwide protests are set for Thursday and Saturday.
As students in Paris's Latin Quarter prepare for the protests, Brahim, in Clichy-sous-Bois, proudly exhibits the back of his hooded black sweatshirt: It bears the outlines of a large "93," the number identifying the Seine-Saint Denis department north of Paris that is home to a large immigrant population.
Brahim says he does not know any university students in Paris and has little in common with them. He is now employed at a car workshop on a temporary contract. But he says he prefers that to the contract proposed by Villepin, which he says would make young people of immigrant origin even more vulnerable to being fired for no reason, without creating any more jobs.
"They say this is their answer to the riots," he said, "but what we really need is a law against discrimination."
Now, I think the law is stupid. But not b/c I think it should be difficult to fire those under 26... it should be easy. But it should be easy to fire anyone you want that works for you. The inability to fire someone may seem like job security, but it is the surest way to business failure - and without business, there are no jobs (despite what the folks at DU & Kos will tell you). The more difficult it is to fire anyone, the more careful that business will be when it looks for new employees. Thus, there is a direct correlation between strict laws regarding termination and unemployment.
With political realities such as this, it's difficult to imagine that France (or Europe as a whole for that matter) is headed for anywhere but the ash-heap of history. This is a simple regulation... perhaps if de Villepin had more political courage, he would recommend that it apply to any employee. However, I have a feeling that the poet is not interested in taking chances.
ARC: St Wendeler