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(en) PARIS: French truckers protesting against changes to work hours preparing widespread road blockades on Sunday.

From news@tao.ca
Date Fri, 4 Feb 2000 09:36:39 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

           Widespread road blockades on Sunday
           which, coinciding with public transport strikes
           on Tuesday, looked set to wreak havoc with traffic this

          Truckers' unions said road blocks should be in place
          across the country by Sunday night, marking their
          opposition to the way a new law cutting the working
          week to 35 from 39 hours is set to be implemented in
          their sector. Barricades were already being set up on
          key motorways, near large towns and at various border
          points at around 1800 GMT on Sunday. They were likely
          to remain at least into Tuesday, when the 35-hour week
          becomes law, union officials said. Tuesday will also see
          Paris public transport disrupted by strikes by Metro,
          suburban train and bus drivers over how the 35-hour
          week will affect them. However, union officials said direct
          routes into Paris should not be affected by the road
          blockades. "The FO, CGT, CFDT and FNCR unions are
          calling truckers to set up blockades from 2200 or 2300
          (local) at border points and in regions like the Rhone or
          Haute-Garonne," said Roger Poletti, Secretary General
          of the Force Ouvriere (FO) union, one of four unions
          calling on members to protest. The blockades, already
          condemned by Dutch exporters, will coincide with a
          national "go-slow" in Germany as trucking firms there
          protest against a new tax which has hiked diesel prices.
          The French truckers oppose a newly hammered out
          35-hour accord due to be implemented during 2000 for
          haulage firms with more than 20 employees and are
          demanding a real cut in hours without a loss in wages
          and guarantees of job creation. "We have a lack of staff
          and pay rises have been rare for some years," said
          Poletti. Ironically, their action comes on the heels of
          crippling road blocks staged earlier in January by
          haulage bosses scared that putting drivers on a 35-hour
          week would leave them at a serious disadvantage to
          unrestricted foreign rivals. A government deal to pacify
          haulage bosses, letting them fix monthly rather than
          weekly limits on hours, has been rejected by truck
          drivers who fear they will end up working long hours in
          busy weeks for no extra pay. Transport unions are also
          calling for members such as ambulance drivers to strike
          on Monday. Ground staff at Air France plan action on
          Tuesday over the 35-hour week. The action is the latest
          in a succession of strikes in recent months linked to the
          35-hour week. Thousands of doctors and nurses took to
          the streets on Friday threatening to block the reform
          unless the government ploughed more money into the
          health system. Hospital unions plan more action on
          Wednesday. The disputes are casting over a shadow
          over the showcase labour reform, a secondary aim of
          which was to seal better accords with unions in a bid to
          reduce industrial disputes. Socialist Prime Minister Lionel
          Jospin made the 35-hour week a priority after taking
          power in mid-1997 as a tool against the country's
          persistent unemployment, currently 10.6 percent.

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