• France's news in English
France faces race to unblock country in time for Euro 2016

France faces race to unblock country in time for Euro 2016

The Local/AFP · 9 Jun 2016, 08:25

Published: 09 Jun 2016 08:25 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The French government was facing a race against time on Thursday to "unblock" the country in time for the big Euro 2016 kick off on Friday.

But things were not looking too optimistic as rail strikes continued to cause transport chaos on Thursday and industrial action by rubbish collectors has led to bins and refuse sacks piling up on the streets of several cities including Paris (see photo below).

French Environment Minister Segolene Royal called for an end Thursday to "the mess" caused by transport and rubbish strikes that threaten to blight the football fiesta.

"People want things to return to normal, for the mess to end," Royal told iTele, saying it was "not right for a modern country to continue being permanently disrupted."

On Thursday the country faces its first major security challenge of the Euro 2016 football championships with a giant open-air concert at the 90,000-capacity fan zone in Paris.

Superstar French DJ David Guetta will play for the crowd at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a day before hosts France face Romania in the tournament's opening match at Paris' Stade de France.   

While the security threat has topped the agenda the unresolved strikes over labour reform have provided another unwelcome distraction to the showpiece event, with France desperately trying to limit the harm done to its image abroad.

Rubbish piles up on streets of Paris as strikers kick up stink(Photo: AFP)

The immediate concern of the government was trying to end the industrial unrest and political turmoil over controversial labour reforms that look set to continue into the championships despite their pleas for unions to halt their action.

On Thursday new protests were held at Rungis, which hosts France's famous food market. Trade union members blocked roads into the town, causing chaos at the daily market.

In the latest of four months of strikes, union supporters blockaded waste incineration centres in central Paris, causing uncollected rubbish to pile up in 10 of the capital's 20 districts.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called for an end to the strike action and promised to get the rubbish collected as soon as possible.

"We are redeploying staff to sort out the situation where it's most critical today," Hidalgo said.

Uncollected black refuse sacks were also accumulating in Saint-Etienne, the central city that will host four Euro 2016 matches, as well as Marseille in the south.

Rail chaos

Three oil refineries run by Total were still on strike, although there was apparently no impact on petrol stations. Port workers at Le Havre have also voted to continue their strike.

Rail workers said they would continue to disrupt services on Thursday, extending their action to a ninth day in Paris and several other regions.

Only one in three trains were running between the centre of Paris and Charles de Gaulle airport.

Elsewhere TGV, TER regional trains and Intercité services were all badly affected by the industrial action on Thursday.

Unions were still chewing over an offer from the SNCF rail operator to end their dispute.

Hundreds of union activists lit flares at a protest rally in the Gare du Nord station, the departure point for Eurostar trains to Britain and other services to northern Europe.

And in a separate dispute, theatre and film industry workers held an early morning demonstration outside the apartment building of Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri in protest at their own special set of working conditions.

The furious minister said the activists were "violating family life" and had gone too far.

Negotiations continued between Air France and pilots' unions, who have threatened to ground planes for four days from Saturday, when an estimated two million foreign visitors will be arriving to watch the football.

Story continues below…

"The government, through its obstinate approach, carries the entire responsibility for the conflict continuing," the hardline CGT union, which has spearheaded the strikes, said.

The CGT wants the Socialist government to scrap the labour reforms, which unions say are stacked in favour of employers and will chip away at job security.

President Francois Hollande has refused to back down, arguing the measures are necessary to cut unemployment and make it easier for companies to take on new staff and release them in a downturn.

Unions opposed to the labour reforms were planning a nationwide day of protests on Jun 14th and on Wednesday announced two further days of protests on June 23rd and une 28th.



The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available