The French Prime Minister is standing firm on his commitment to the controversial youth employment law that has sparked protests by millions across the country.
Dominique de Villepin told his monthly press conference that it was time to “end the crisis” over the law for under-26s, which allows employers to terminate a contract without explanation within the first two years of employment.
The unions have given the government until Easter weekend to withdraw the law or face a repeat of the recent general strikes.
But De Villepin said the new law was a tool to bring down unemployment. He said that in under-privileged areas up to 50% of young people were jobless. The national rate of youth unemployment in France is more than 20%.
“The president of the republic has entrusted me with a mission and I shall conduct this mission to its conclusion,” he said. “It is time to put this crisis behind us, to restore calm and unity to the country. The immediate priority is naturally appeasement.”
However, De Villepin avoided giving any direct answer on whether the First Employment Contract law would be withdrawn entirely, as the trade unions have demanded.
It became law on 2 April, but amendments are expected and employers are being asked not to apply it the workplace yet.