Job cuts fuel strike threats

FRANCE

This year's school year has opened with a row about next year. At issue is the 2003 budget which will lead to thousands of job cuts and the axing of programmes introduced by the previous government.

Teachers' representatives raised the possibility of strikes, after schools minister Xavier Darcos, said that "at least 2,000 to 3,000 educational jobs" would go under the 2003 budget to be ratified this month.

Tax cuts and priority for law and order were the major election promises of the new right-wing government.

Mr Darcos's boss, education minister Luc Ferry, explained that administrative, not teaching, jobs would be cut, and new primary teachers'

posts would be created. Thousands of extra secondary teaching posts have been cancelled.

Mr Ferry questioned whether "resources" and "creating a few hundred extra posts" would solve problems. He said that it was time to concentrate on teaching skills and educational priorities. Tackling illiteracy was his top priority, he added.

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