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PROTESTS

What is the protest by French taxi drivers, driving instructors and ambulance workers all about?

Taxi drivers caused traffic chaos around Paris on Monday morning as they blocked the peripherique ring road around the French capital as part of a joint protest with driving instructors and ambulance workers. But what's all the fuss about?

What is the protest by French taxi drivers, driving instructors and ambulance workers all about?
Taxi drivers take part in a blockade on the A6 highway near the Porte d'Orleans, southern Paris, on May 20, 2019. Photo: AFP
Taxis gathered early on Monday morning, blocking the roads near the city's main airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, as well as around the business district of La Défense. 
 
The result was car chaos as traffic jams also grew around Boulevard Raspail in central Paris and commuters struggled to get into the French capital.  
 
A “go-slow” protest was also being held on the A4, beginning at Lognes, a town in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France, while on the A106 an estimated 200 taxis were protesting at Chevilly-Larue and there were about 50 taxis at Chilly-Mazarin.
 
So, what's the protest all about?
 
Photo: AFP
 
The taxi drivers, driving instructors and ambulance workers are voicing their opposition to the LOM  – the new transport law currently under consideration in the French parliament. 
 
A spokesperson for the taxi division of the SUD union, Adil Karami told the French press that the new law would “destroy the balance between traditional taxis and private minicabs (VTCs).”
 
Karim Asnoun from the taxi division of the hard left CGT union said the new law “plans to give VTCs the same rights of taxis, such as the freedom to use bus lanes and social security agreements without subjecting them to the same constraints.”
 
Meanwhile French driving instructors are furious over the proposed reforms to the system of preparing for the theoretical and practical driving tests which they say will undermine their profession and make the country's roads less safe. 
 
One measure would ease accreditation rules to allow driving schools without a physical premises – i.e. online schools – to be set up more easily. This would be unfair to traditional schools who have to fork out for a room or a building in which to hold classes, unions argue. 
 
Driving instructors were set to block roads across the country, with traffic jams predicted in major cities, notably Toulouse. 
 
As for ambulance workers, who also protested at the end of 2018, they want an end to article 80, a controversial measure which private ambulance companies worry will threaten their jobs, as hospitals are now under obligation to put out calls for tender for transport contracts.
 
“We have asked the prime minister to meet with us,” said Adil Karami from the SUD union, adding that this is merely “act 1” of the protests and that “the government has an interest in solving the problems as soon as possible.”
 

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PROTESTS

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.

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