France’s big strike day of 2016 snarls busi­ness

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Taxis snarled traf­fic across France Tues­day and air­lines can­celed flights on the first big strike day of 2016. Taxi driv­ers, air traf­fic con­trollers and civil ser­vants are all protest­ing, each with dif­fer­ent de­mands.

Taxi driv­ers set fire to tires on the high­way ring road around Paris, blocked the A7 high­way near Mar­seille, and slowed ac­cess roads to Orly and Charles de Gaulle air­ports near the cap­i­tal. Po­lice ar­rested 20 taxi driv­ers in Paris, mostly near Porte Mail­lot on the western edge of the cap­i­tal where riot po­lice led a charge to dis­place a crowd of taxi driv­ers and ex­tin­guish burn­ing tires, i-Tele tele­vi­sion re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, mov­ing groups of taxis pe­ri­od­i­cally blocked parts of the "pe­riph­erique" ring road around Paris as well as ac­cess roads to the air­ports. An­other group of taxis parked out­side the Fi­nance Min­istry. There were sim­i­lar protests in Toulouse and Mar­seille.

"There is a right to demon­strate, but vi­o­lence is un­ac­cept­able," Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls said as he left a meet­ing in par­lia­ment. Nine taxi as­so­ci­a­tions met with Valls around mid­day to dis­cuss their de­mands. The taxi driv­ers are protest­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of car ser­vices such as Uber.

CGT Taxis is­sued a state­ment ac­cus­ing the govern­ment of try­ing to "kill the pro­fes­sion with sav­age dereg­u­la­tion." The union says 60,000 taxi jobs are at risk. A taxi strike last June 25 de­scended into vi­o­lence as some Uber driv­ers were beaten and their cars burned.

France's civil avi­a­tion au­thor­ity asked air­lines to cut their flights by 20 per­cent Tues­day as two unions rep­re­sent­ing air traf­fic con­trollers called for a 24-hour strike end­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing to de­mand higher pay and pen­sions. Aero­ports de Paris, which man­ages Orly and CDG, said trav­el­ers should check with their air­lines and travel to the air­port by train.

Air France says it will guar­an­tee all long- haul flights to­day as well as 80 per­cent of short- and medi­umhaul flights, though it warned that last minute cancellations can't be ex­cluded. It's of­fer­ing cus­tomers with tick­ets the op­tion to fly later this week with­out cost. Lufthansa can­celed 10 flights be­tween Ger­many and France to­day and EasyJet can­celed 35.

The largest strike

Tues­day in­volves a call by the CGT, Force Ou­vriere, and Sud for 5 mil­lion work­ers in schools, hospi­tals and lo­cal govern­ment to stay off work.

They are de­mand­ing a re­turn to in­dexed pay in­creases that were in­ter­rupted in 2010, as well as an end to planned spend­ing cuts in France's health care sys­tem and lo­cal gov­ern­ments. "Cre­ated in an en­vi­ron­ment of aus­ter­ity, they threaten to de­stroy pub­lic jobs, per­turb pub­lic ser­vices and worsen the con­di­tions of pub­lic work­ers," FO said in a state­ment.

The SNUipp, an as­so­ci­a­tion of teach­ers' unions, said a third of pri­mary school teach­ers had heeded the strike call. The Education Min­istry says 13 per­cent are strik­ing. The end of in­dex­a­tion has cost civil ser­vants 8 per­cent­age points in the pur­chas­ing power of their salaries, FO says.

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