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France ready to force rail strikers back to work

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France ready to force rail strikers back to work
Photo: AFP
08:04 CEST+02:00
With strikes spilling over in to Euro 2016 and threatening to cause chaos around the opening match, the French government has vowed to do whatever it takes to ensure the tournament runs smoothly and that could mean forcing strikers back to work on the trains.

The French government says it is ready, if necessary, to force rail strikers back to work, to ensure Euro 2016 does not descend into travel chaos and fans are unable to get to the grounds.

On Wednesday French President Francois Hollande had said he was ready to take "all necessary measures" to ensure rolling transport strikes don't disrupt the smooth running of the month-long Euro 2016 football extravaganza.

"I will be paying close attention tomorrow and if decisions need to be made, they will be made," Hollande said Thursday on the eve of the tournament's opening match between France and Romania.

Rail workers have threatened fresh strike action on Friday on the lines serving Paris' Stade de France where the kick-off game will take place in front of 80,000 fans, if they can reach the stadium that is.

"Rest assured that public services will be provided and that the state will assume its full responsibilities," the president told reporters in his heartland of Tulle in the Correze.

Speculation had been rising that the Hollande and his Prime Minister Valls were prepared to put into a controversial measure that effectively forces strikers to return to work.

The 2003 law for the "requisition of personnel" was controversially used by former president Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2010 in a bid to end a crippling fuel strike.

While neither Hollande nor Valls have specifically talked of "requisitions", the government's transport minister Alain Vidalies confirmed that "requisition" orders would be used if necessary.

Vidalies told Europe1 radio that the government would use "every tool available" to get fans to matches and "if we have to issue orders tomorrow (for trains to be driven) we will do so".

He also ruled out any new negotiations with workers who have been striking for 10 days and warned the authorities would show "no tolerance of actions that threaten the big celebration."

"The strike has no meaning anymore," he added.The four-yearly football tournament comes as France is grappling with unresolved strikes over the government's controversial labour reforms.

A train strike was in its ninth day Thursday, while visitors to the capital were also greeted by piles of uncollected rubbish.

Hollande said the government was prepared to "take all necessary measures" to accommodate and transport spectators attending the matches, which will be held under stringent security measures in the wake of last year's jihadist attacks in the capital.

France has mustered up to 90,000 police and private guards to provide security for the tournament.

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