Contrat Première Embauche
Much debated upon law proposed by the French government on January 16th 2006. This law would have enabled employers to hire a worker under the age of 26 for a "tryout period" of 2 years. During this period workers could be fired for no reason whatsoever. The idea was that this would encourage employers to hire more workers, and this would boost the economy and tackle unemployment; however this would create insecure jobs, and it was also possible to see this contract as a form of "slavery", because employers would be much more likely to fire anyone who goes on strike or belongs to a trade union, so many people saw this as being a bad idea and an attack on their liberty (the French motto being of course liberty,equality and fraternity).
This caused many protests and strikes, people took to the streets in their thousands to express their disapproval of the government, and many universities were blocked or disrupted for over a month! There were even protests against the protests, because many people were fed up with the disruption. This shows that the French Revolutionary Spirit lives on. Any problem in France generally creates some form of havoc: riots, strikes, demonstrations.
However it has to be said that it wasn't as chaotic as the English press would have people believe (I live in France), and these protests should on no account be confused with the French Banlieue Riots that took place just before, this is a completely separate issue. Compared with May 2nd, 1968 this was an extremely peaceful and organised expression of disagreement by the French people
In spite of all this protesting, Chirac announced the application of the CPE on 2nd April 2006, but with the recommendation not to apply it! He promised to make some amendments to it, including reducing its length to 1 year and making it obligatory for employers to state their reasons for firing someone, although exactly how was not clear. However this failed to convince those opposing the contract, and the demonstrations continued.
On 10th April 2006, de Villepin, the French prime minister announced the cancellation of the CPE, which by the vast majority of those opposing the CPE was seen as a great victory. However certain universities continue to be blocked or disrupted, having decided to keep pressurizing the government to remove the CNE (similar to the CPE but without the 26 year old age limit), and just to generally be on strike, because that's what the French do best.