French union leaders threaten havoc at Euro 2016
Force ouvriere calls for all-out strike for transport and waste disposal on match days
People bang a plastic bin as they hold a placard reading “We are millions” and a flag of the French union-trade General Confederation of Labour (CGT) during a protest against the government’s labour law reforms in Rennes on Thursday. A wave of industrial action against labour reforms is rocking France. Photograph: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty
A French trade union has specifically threatened to paralyse transport in host towns on the days of matches during the Euro 2016 football championships, in protest at the new labour law.
“We decided that every day there’s a match in one of those towns, the federation will call for a strike throughout the town, that is to say lorry drivers, rubbish collectors, ambulances and public transport,” said Pascal Clos, the head of the transport branch of Force ouvrière (FO).
Clos said he will meet his counterpart in the more powerful communist union CGT on Monday to co-ordinate the strikes. Open-ended railway and metro strikes are to begin in coming days. The next nationwide “day of action” will occur on June 14th.
President Francois Hollande told a press conference in Japan, where he is attending the G7 summit, “I’ll stick it out, because it’s a good reform and we must continue all the way to its adoption . . . This is not the time to make difficulties for the French economy.”
The seriousness of events on Thursday became more evident yesterday, when it was reported that dozens of rioters had attacked a police commissariat in Bordeaux. An attempt was made to block Paris’s Périphérique ring road at the Porte de Vincennes.
“About 100 people attacked five policemen who were making an arrest, and they were forced to retreat into a private residence while awaiting reinforcements,” said a statement from the prefecture of Paris. “Clashes followed, during which a young man was seriously wounded.”
The CGT is still blocking the port of Le Havre, where petroleum tankers have been unable to dock for a week.
The Le Havre terminal provides Roissy and Orly airports with fuel, and the situation could become critical if the blockage continues for two to three weeks.
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“If the situation doesn’t calm down before the Euros, the head of state may have only one solution: to sacrifice his prime minister in exchange for social peace,” said the Nouvelle République du Centre newspaper.
This is the first time since Francois Mitterrand’s election in 1981 that a socialist government has faced such fierce opposition from labour unions. “How could a president ‘from the left’ have inflamed the unions, when he made social dialogue the hallmark of his method?” the economic daily Les Échos asked.
Mr Hollande and Mr Valls “gambled that the French would blame the CGT for blocking the country”, the newspaper continued. “It’s the opposite, for now. The French are exasperated. They don’t approve of the CGT’s methods, but they’re angry with the government.”
Two opinion polls indicated that two-thirds or more of the population want the labour law to be withdrawn. Just under 60 per cent believe it will be withdrawn, and 61 per cent said it will be the fault of the government if the Euro 2016 is disrupted.