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French trucking unions call off planned strike

French trucking unions have turned up the heat on President Emmanuel Macron by calling for a rolling strike from Sunday night. They are promising to take actions across the country unless their grievances are heard.

French trucking unions call off planned strike
Photo: AFP

UPDATE: Since this article was written the two truckers unions have since called off their strike after talks with the government

 

BACKGROUND:

The two unions representing lorry drivers are calling on members to down tools from Sunday night onwards as part of their protest over the cuts to overtime rates.

Their call to strike comes as the anti-government “yellow vest” protest movement shows no sign of abating, despite the French government's announcement to scrap the planned fuel tax hikes in January.

A joint statement from the CGT and FO unions said: “This is about defending real wages, just like the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests).”

The two unions described the measures announced by French PM Edouard Philippe to appease the anger of the yellow vests as “crumbs”.

But their main gripe is a decision of country's highest court, the council of state (Conseil d'Etat) to bow to two employers' organisations and cancel a decree that forced them to pay drivers higher overtime rates.

The unions are demanding a meeting with the minister of transport. 

“If we don't get guarantees on the maintaining of overtime hours we will intervene across France, firstly with the truck drivers and then with other sectors like cash-transport vans and refuse collectors.

If Sunday's rolling strike goes ahead it's unclear what impact it could have on motorists, but in the past striking truckers have blocked motorways and fuel depots.

The leading French farmers' union is also set to ramp up the pressure on Macron by holding their own protests.

“We will be on the street next week to demand an end to the bludgeoning of farmers,” said Christiane Lambert from the FNSEA union.

Farmers' unions want to make sure the government is on their side during fraught negotiations with distributors over the prices paid for produce.

“The president said he was going to work to restore revenue for farmers. He must not give in to pressure from certain distributors,” said Lambert.

Farmers are expected to hold their protest on Wednesday morning.

While the number of “yellow vest” protesters setting up filtered road blocks around France have vastly reduced since November 17th there are still operations taking place, particularly in Brittany, where fuel depots are being blocked.

This has led to shortages of petrol at filling stations around the country with the west of the country hardest hit.

This link contains an interactive map to see how severe the fuel shortages are in your area.

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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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