The French government is attempting a last minute mediation in the conflict opposing transport firms and their employees to avoid the disastrous scenario of a trucker strike halting deliveries during the Christmas shopping period.
REUTERS - The French government delved into a wage dispute between truckers and their employers on Wednesday in an effort to avert a strike that could paralyse deliveries to retailers at the height of the Christmas shopping period.
Labour unions say wages in the sector have been frozen for the past two years while costs have risen, leaving truckers poorer and angry. Transport firms say the economic downturn has hit their businesses and they can't afford to hike salaries.
The five main unions have threatened to launch an indefinite strike from Dec. 13. They have said they would block access routes to certain companies and industrial zones that produce goods connected to Christmas, without giving specifics.
"We want an agreement on wages and expense allowances to be signed by unions and bosses by Friday morning. If that happens, we'll call off the strike," said Gerard Martinez of the union Force Ouvriere, during a break from talks at the Transport Ministry.
The government, which is acting as a mediator in the negotiations, has suggested raising the lowest salaries in the sector by 4 percent and medium salaries by 3 percent.
That falls short of union demands for a 4 percent wage increase for all of the sector's 610,000 employees, as well as a 3 percent hike in allowances to cover costs such as meals. They also want a collective agreement on health insurance.
French truckers have several times in the past conducted winter strikes that have hurt the economy. They have blocked not only roads but also railways, causing traffic jams, delaying deliveries of goods and disrupting holiday travel plans.
Date created : 2009-12-09