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French PM bows to pressure after taxi drivers protest

As national strikes continue, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday that he would appoint a mediator "within 48 hours" to rebalance France's taxi problems.

French PM bows to pressure after taxi drivers protest
Prime Minister Manuel Valls leaves the meeting on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
Tuesday saw France hit by yet another taxi strike, with drivers furious over what they claim to be unfair competition from private hire companies and web platforms like Uber. 
 
Prime Minister Manuel Valls met with a delegation representing various professional taxi organizations in the afternoon, in which he promised to appoint an independent mediator within two days.
 
Round table talks between taxi company chiefs and ministers would also take place and a three month consultation period would be launched.
 
Union heads at the meeting said Valls also promised an “intensification of checks” on private minicab firms, known as VTCs, whom taxi drivers accuse of flouting laws.. 
 
Valls later confirmed the information, although exactly what the intensification will involve remains unclear.
 
The main complaint of taxi drives is that the laws that are in place to ensure fairer competition with VTC are not being enforced.
 
They complain for example that VTC drivers cruise around looking to pick up clients which they are banned from doing so.
 
The taxi driver strike – the second since June last year – saw key roads to airports blocked and other strategic points across the country, some with burning tyres, and with motorists left with no choice but to endure heavy delays. 
 
Police made over 20 arrests, most at Porte Maillot on the western edge of Paris where protesting taxi drivers were holding demonstrations on the Paris ring road.
 
There were reports of Uber cars being attacks and a VTC driver being beaten up in the northern city of Lille.
 
PM Valls condemned the violence, which wasn't on the same level as a previous taxi protest last June. 
 
“There is a right to protest… even during a state of emergency,” he said. “But violence is unacceptable.”
 
Many in France have been hit by the strikes, which the French media are referring to as “black Tuesday”. The French public have seen simultaneous strikes by air traffic controllers, civil servants, hospital workers and teachers. 
 

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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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