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Road rage: France's trucker unions threaten more protests after failed talks

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Road rage: France's trucker unions threaten more protests after failed talks
All photos: AFP
13:28 CEST+02:00
Motorists in France beware: Truck driver unionists stormed out of negotiations with France’s Transport Ministry on Thursday night, promising more protests in the near future.

Truck drivers have been protesting against France’s new labour reforms this week, organising ‘go-slows’ on the motorways and blocking petrol depots around the country.

While police were generally quick to break up the blockades, motorists emptied scores of petrol stations around the country in fear that there would be fuel shortages. 

While there were only a small number of petrol stations of out stock on Friday (43) things may be about to get worse after Thursday night's five hour meeting between truck driver unions and the transport ministry.

The meeting was intended to be a series of negotiations to alleviate the truckers’ concerns over the new labour code, but it appears the talks hit a blockade and by the end spilled into road rage.

Union head Jérôme Vérité said “nothing concrete” was agreed upon. Worse still for the truck drivers, they learned in the meeting that their travel expenses may not be covered under rules set out in the labour reforms.

Vérité said this was a “thunderbolt” for the profession, adding that travel expenses such as food and overnight stays can cost up to €1,000 a month for drivers.

Union heads stormed out of the building and slammed doors on their way, reported Le Figaro newspaper.

Another meeting between unions and the transport heads has been scheduled for October 4th. 

The powerful CGT union promised to “rally the troops” for continued protests, while the FO union said it has no intentions of calling off the current strike. Other unions at the meeting have called for action from October 10th. 

The drivers fear job losses over the new labour code reforms and have voiced concerns about losing their early retirement scheme.

The changes to the labour code, which runs to around 3,400 pages in some editions, give small businesses more flexibility to negotiate pay and conditions with their staff, instead of being bound by national agreements.

They also make it easier to lay off employees and cap compensation awards for unfair dismissal while also giving higher payouts to workers made redundant.

President Emmanuel Macron argues the changes - the cornerstone of his programme aimed at boosting entrepreneurship - will help bring down stubbornly high unemployment of 9.6 percent.

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