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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
French students keep up protests
Student protest in Rennes, western France, 11 Apr 06
Rennes was among the cities which saw fresh protests
Students in France have kept up their protests against the government's youth employment reforms, but on a much smaller scale than last week.

The protests came despite the government's decision to scrap the youth jobs law, or CPE, which had unleashed a wave of anger.

Parliament is shortly to consider a replacement for the CPE aimed at helping the most disadvantaged youths.

The CPE's critics feared it would undermine job security.

France Info radio said some students were still unhappy with the entire government youth employment package.

Only half of France's 62 universities that were not closed for holidays were functioning normally, the education ministry said.

Demonstrations drew at least 2,500 onto the streets of Toulouse on Tuesday, the French news agency AFP reported.

Smaller demonstrations took place in Grenoble, Marseille, Paris and Rennes.

Climbdown

Weeks of nationwide protest forced the government to scrap the CPE (First Employment Contract).

Dominique de Villepin announces the changes in a televised address
Mr de Villepin has seen his popularity fall during the crisis
The CPE was to allow a two-year trial period for employees aged under 26, during which bosses could end a contract without explanation.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said it was important to keep open a dialogue on the way forward. He had championed the CPE as a way to bring down France's 22% youth unemployment.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the U-turn on the CPE has almost certainly killed off any chance of reform in the twilight years of President Jacques Chirac's long tenure.

Equally, it has ended any hopes Mr de Villepin had of becoming the Right's candidate for the presidency next year, she adds.

Vigilance

Student union leaders had given the government until Easter weekend to withdraw the CPE or face a repeat of the recent general strikes.

FIRST JOB CONTRACT
Contrat Premiere Embauche (CPE): A new work contract for under-26s allowing a two-year trial period
In that period, employers can end a contract without explanation
After two years, the CPE reverts to a standard full-time contract
Became law on 2 April

One of the student leaders, Nabila Randani, told the BBC the protesters would not be lowering their guard.

"I think that we'll have to be extremely vigilant as to the content of the new law which will be proposed by the government," she said.

In a French TV interview, Mr de Villepin agreed "absolutely" that he had misjudged concerns among the public over his government's new law.

"While the CPE is a measure designed to reduce job insecurity... it became a symbol of greater job insecurity," he said.

The plan to replace the CPE was announced after a meeting between President Chirac and the government on Monday.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announces the change



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