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Why are French firefighters protesting in the streets?

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Why are French firefighters protesting in the streets?
Photo: AFP
08:45 CEST+02:00
Professional firefighters in France have been holding a series of protests, which on Tuesday lead to violent clashes with police in Paris, but what's it all about?
A demonstration in Paris and a attempt to block the périphérique ended in several violent clashes with police, who used tear gas, batons and water canons on the demonstrators. Three police officers were injured.
 
 
Although this is the frrst time it has turned violent, the protests have been going on for some months now.
 
In June seven unions, representing 85 percent of the professional firefighters of France, filed a notice with France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner giving notice of industrial action.
 
The unions denounce a "lack of social dialogue" and "lack of response" during meetings which have been conducted since March 14th with Castaner and professional associations, as well France's Association of Mayors (AMF).
 
The unions are demanding the withdrawal of the civil service reforms, the upgrading of firefighters to the same level as other risky occupations, such as the police who receive a "risk bonus", and "a massive recruitment drive".
 
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Photo: AFP

Unions argue that the country's fire service is in higher demand than ever however it is has "fewer staff and fewer resources". 
 
Added to this there is "more and more verbal and sometimes physical violence," according to one union official.
 
"The public emergency service is sick. We want to alert the French," said André Goretti, president of the FA - SPP-PATS, the largest union of professional firefighters.
 
 
"Maybe one day we will not be able to respond quickly enough to a victim of a heart attack, or the start of a fire. That day, we will not have ourselves to blame," he said, adding there is a "deep malaise within the profession."
 
France has around 250,000 firefighters of whom only 40,000 are professional. 
 
The threat of a national strike follows several months of small industrial action at individual barracks.  
 
However even if they declare themselves on strike, firefighters may be required to perform a minimum service, as "agents ensuring the functioning of services essential to the guarantee of people's physical security".
 
This means that firefighters will be largely limited to demonstrating their support for the strike through banners and armbands however the unions have threatened that if the government does not respond to their demands there could be demonstrations. 
 
 The rest of France has civilian fire services organised, supervised and trained by the French Ministry of the Interior; who fall under the Civil Defence and Security Directorate (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Civile et de la Gestion de Crise, DGSCGC).
 
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