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End ‘mob rule’ by French strikers: UK port boss

The chief of Britain's Channel port of Dover has lashed out at the "militant" French strikers who caused chaos when blocking the Channel Tunnel last week saying "mob rule" cannot be tolerated.

End 'mob rule' by French strikers: UK port boss
Striking French sailors start a fire on the Channel Tunnel train tracks causing travel chaos. Photo: AFP

“Mob rule” by “aggrieved militant Frenchmen” must not be allowed to keep disrupting trade at Britain's Port of Dover, its chief executive said Monday, after a wave of strikes by ferry workers.

Workers from French company MyFerryLink have held a series of protests over plans to sell off some of the firm's ferries, which could result in job cuts.

This has disrupted freight and passenger travel on both sides of the Channel.

Migrants based in Calais have also tried to break into vehicles blocked by the strike action and the Channel Tunnel terminal in a bid to cross into Britain.

Tim Waggott, the port's chief executive, released an open letter saying four days of strikes in Calais had cost the British economy around €1 billion pounds (€1.4 billion , $1.5 billion).

“How could you equate the importance of keeping such valuable trade moving with the incredible disruption caused at a major international gateway — Calais — by the mob rule of a small number of aggrieved militant Frenchmen? We certainly cannot,” Waggott wrote.

“Unless supermarkets with empty shelves and assembly lines with vital parts missing are to become acceptable, then clearly under no circumstances should the recent situation be allowed to happen again.”

Waggott stressed that Dover had remained open for business throughout.

But he urged the government to start considering how to ensure that “a £100 billion trade route can do its job 24/7, unimpeded by others for the long term.”

The Port of Dover handles 13 million passengers each year.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said Britain was working closely with France to stop the blockades but added: “There does remain a possibility of further disruption and travellers should check travel advice and with their operators.”

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STRIKES

French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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