Sunday 15 December 2019

Strike threat casts long shadow over Euro 2016

Union supporters blockaded waste incineration centres in central Paris, causing uncollected rubbish to pile up in 10 of the capital’s 20 districts. Photo: AP
Union supporters blockaded waste incineration centres in central Paris, causing uncollected rubbish to pile up in 10 of the capital’s 20 districts. Photo: AP

Dean Gray

Die-hard French unions hit France where it most hurts yesterday - in the stomach - by blocking entry to Rungis, Europe's largest wholesale food market, on the eve of the Euro 2016 kick-offs.

With the clock ticking before the start of the European football tournament in France today, hardline CGT unionists continued to cause havoc in their bid to overturn a labour reform with a string of blockages, despite desperate government attempts to end the stand-off.

Rail strikes entered their ninth successive day while disgruntled rubbish collectors have let bins and refuse sacks pile up on the streets of several cities, including Paris.

In a new front in what the French sports minister dubbed "unionist guerilla warfare", protesters blocked roads into the town of Rungis, which hosts France's famous wholesale food market, for several hours.

Spread over 578 acres, the international market gathers 1,200 companies, mainly wholesale food vendors, employing 12,000 staff. Some 2.8 million tons of food pass annually through the market, whose turnover last year was almost €9bn.

"We came here to show the CGT is everywhere and that we too can be as intransigent as the government on (the labour law)," said unionist Nicolas Buatois.

It was unclear whether the early-morning protest would lead to any shortages in the French capital.

Meanwhile, union supporters blockaded waste incineration centres in central Paris (above), causing uncollected rubbish to pile up in 10 of the capital's 20 districts. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called for an end to the strike action and promised to have the rubbish removed as soon as possible.

Uncollected black refuse sacks have also been accumulating in Saint-Etienne, the central city that will host four Euro 2016 matches, as well as Marseille in the south.

The fresh blockages came as the country faces its first major security challenge of the Euro 2016 football championships with a giant open-air concert at the 90,000-capacity fan zone in Paris.

Star French DJ David Guetta is due to play to a huge crowd at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

"France is offering an international demonstration of its sense of welcome," lamented 'La Parisien', the capital's daily. "Mountains of pestilential rubbish are piling up in tourist areas, train strikes, nuclear power stations blocked, and pilots' strikes starting up this weekend. The list is not exhaustive and is still open."

Three oil refineries run by Total were still on strike, although petrol stations are now running normally. Workers at Le Havre have also voted to continue their strike.

Rail workers said they would continue to disrupt services, extending their action to a ninth day in Paris and several other regions.

Only one in three trains were running between the centre of Paris and Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Meanwhile, the head of the SNCF Transilien, which runs suburban trains, advised fans to turn up very early to today's opening game between France and Romania at the Stade de France due to the strikes.

Unions were still mulling over an offer from the SNCF rail operator to end their dispute.

Hundreds of union activists lit flares at a protest rally in the Gare du Nord station, the departure point for Eurostar trains.

And in a separate dispute, theatre and film industry workers held an early morning demonstration outside the apartment building of Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri in protest at their own special set of working conditions.

Air France and pilots' unions, have also threatened to ground planes for four days from tomorrow, when an estimated two million foreign visitors will be arriving to watch the football.

Irish Independent

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