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From garbage collectors to pilots, French strikes cloud start of Euro 2016

Denis Charlet, AFP | Picture shows Euro 2016 traffic signal in northern France after it was vandalized by opponents of French labour reforms

French workers extended their strikes and protests Thursday, less than 24 hours before Euro 2016 kicked off. As football fans descend on the country, FRANCE 24 offers a guide to the strikes threatening to disrupt the month-long tournament.

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Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned on Thursday that the ongoing strikes must not tarnish France’s image as it hosts Euro 2016 from June 10 to July 10.

“I would like the Euro to be a beautiful showcase for France,” Valls told reporters. "France is ready to host the Euro, and everyone must show responsibility and patriotism at this time."

The government’s pronouncements have nonetheless done little to abate the strikes which have hit key French industries. And all this just a week after France was hit by devastating floods.

On the eve of the competition, hundreds of protesters blocked the entrance to France’s largest wholesale food market, located just south of the capital.

The incident lasted only around three hours, with no impact on food distribution reported, but more disputes could flare up in the coming days and weeks:

Trains

Proposed government reforms to France’s labour laws have faced particularly strong opposition and sparked numerous transport strikes. Unions and student groups alike claim the reforms will in fact increase unemployment and weaken job security.

Train conductors and other staff on Thursday voted to remain on strike for the ninth consecutive day. Two unions (CFDT and Unsa) have signed a deal to return to work, while two hardline unions (SUD and FO) have rejected it. The CGT union, France’s largest, has said it will consult members before making a decision.

In the meantime, rail traffic in Paris and around the country will continue to experience some delays. Only half of all commuter trains in the Paris region are in service. But the high-speed TGV train network that connects France’s largest cities is working at 80% capacity.

Click here, for information from France’s rail service (SNCF) on the strike in English.

Garbage

The garbage management sector only recently joined the protests, but their action could deal a severe blow to the image of the Euro 2016 host country.

Garbage collectors blocked the two main waste treatment centres in the Paris region on Wednesday. An incinerator that treats garbage from the large port-city of Marseille (and the host to numerous high-profile tournament matches) was closed.

The powerful CGT union said it would extend the garbage collection strike in the capital until June 14.

Fuel

The protests against the proposed labour reforms have been marked by fuel shortages, and three out Total’s five oil refineries are still experiencing strikes.
However, petrol stations have been fully resupplied for several days and officials said there was no threat that the pumps would run dry during the competition.

Planes

Air France pilots have confirmed a four-day walkout between June 11 and 14 after pay talks collapsed.

The company said on Thursday that it would be forced to cancel up to 30 percent of flights, but vowed minimal disruption to cities hosting the Euro championship.

Click here, for information from Air France on the strike in English.

Street Protests

Paris and other major cities could once again see large street protests on June 14, with the main unions calling on all workers to strike that day. Marches have often descended into violent clashes between a small, mask-clad groups within the protestors and the police in recent weeks.

Pensioners have also been called on to join the union workers and students to protest worsening living standards.

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