In a long-awaited television address, French President Jacques Chirac said Friday he would sign a controversial youth jobs contract into law, but promised a new law to modify its provisions.
Chirac may have disappointed France's striking students
The president said he had decided to promulgate the law because it had been duly voted through parliament and also because he "believed the First Employment Contract (CPE) can be an effective tool for employment."
Unions and student groups which have led weeks of protest, sometimes violent, against the CPE rejected Chirac's call for dialogue and said they would pursue plans for another day of strikes and demonstrations next week.
Chirac, in his address broadcast live on all major French television channels, said he had "heard the anxieties that are being expressed by many young people and their parents."
Chirac during the nationally televised address on Friday
"That is why I have asked the government to immediately prepare two modifications to the law on the points which have been at the heart of the debate. The (trial) period of two years shall be reduced to one year. And if the contract is broken, the right of the young worker to know the reasons shall be written into the new law," he said.
Chirac: no law without modifications
The president said he would ask his government to take steps to ensure that "in practice no contract can be signed that does not fully include these modifications." And he asked the "social partners" -- unions and employers -- as well as student groups to enter talks "to play a full role in the elaboration of these new measures."
The CPE is an open-ended contract for under 26-year-olds that can be terminated without explanation by the employer during a two-year trial period. It has provoked weeks of at times violent protests, creating one of the most serious crises of Chirac's 11-year presidency.
In a first reaction, Jean-Claude Mailly of the Workers' Force union said Chirac's solution to the crisis was "incomprehensible and unacceptable.... We do not have the response we were counting on." Mailly and Bernard Thibault of the General Work Confederation (CGT) both said a day of protests and strikes on Tuesday would go ahead as planned.