Chirac expected to sign new youth labor law.
France: Chirac is going to address the nation and sign into law making it easier for employers to fire people under 26.
|PARIS (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac will address the nation on Friday to explain his next move on a controversial youth jobs law that has brought millions to the streets in protest. A top court, the Constitutional Council, backed the law on Thursday, handing the baton to Chirac to decide what to do. He can sign the measure into law and risk more street protests or risk losing his prime minister if he withdraws it. Parliamentary sources expect him to sign the CPE First Jobs Contract on Friday. He will speak on television at 6:00 p.m. Villepin, who has seen his popularity tumble since introducing the law, says it is a crucial tool to fight youth unemployment. Student demonstrators and unions have urged Chirac to send the law back to parliament -- stripped of the CPE articles that were attached to it. The contract allows companies to fire workers aged under 26 without giving a reason and opponents say this will create a generation of workers with no job security. Millions of workers and students have joined protests, some marred by violence, against the law in recent weeks. Students kept up their action on Thursday, blocking main traffic routes and some major train stations. Unions have called new protests next Tuesday and have warned the government that millions more will turn out unless Chirac changes the law. Chirac has repeatedly backed Villepin, widely viewed as his preferred successor should the president, 73, not stand for a third term in elections next year. But commentators say the protests have left Villepin's future in the balance and a climbdown on the law could sink his hopes of running in next year's presidential election. Villepin says the contract will help bring down high unemployment. Data on Thursday showed the unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent in February, one of the highest rates in Europe. Joblessness among under 25-year-olds fell slightly to 22.2 percent.|