(eng)First injuries as French strikes widen

The Anarchives (tao@presence.lglobal.com)
Sat, 2 Dec 1995 17:13:39 +0000 (GMT)

^First injuries as French strikes widen@
By Francois Raitberger
PARIS, Dec 1 (Reuter) - A public transport strike turning
French cities into a traffic nightmare went into its eighth day
on Friday and unions said protests against government austerity
plans were likely to worsen next week.
The stoppage by railway and Paris transport unions heralded
another day of misery for millions of commuters forced to walk,
cycle, roller-skate or hitch rides to work among unprecedented
traffic jams.
The state SNCF rail company said the only main line traffic
would be a few trains on the Paris-London and Paris-Brussels
routes. Regional and commuter traffic, as well as Paris Metro
underground train and bus services, would be virtually nil.
The strikes, aimed at forcing Prime Minister Alain Juppe to
drop unpopular plans to restore the indebted welfare system to
health, widened on Thursday to electricity and postal workers.
Buoyed by the spread of the worst labour unrest in a decade,
unions called for teachers, telecommunications, health, road
haulage and commerce workers to join the strikes.
The Workers' Force (FO) union federation said reports from
its local organisations showed strikes would spread next week.
The unrest claimed its first injuries on Thursday as youths
clashed with police in several cities after marches by students
demanding more funds for overcrowded state universities.
Some 20 people, most of them policemen, were injured in the
western town of Nantes as masked youths built barricades and
stoned police. A policeman was seriously hurt in Montpellier.
In Paris, six policemen were hurt in clashes with youths who
broke shop windows, overturned cars and ransacked a university
building after riot police stopped student marchers from
reaching the National Assembly.
The unrest, hitting industry and coinciding with pessimistic
economic growth forecasts, pulled down the French franc and the
Paris Bourse and had employers increasingly worried.
The government has pledged to stand firm on its plans, but
dealers said markets were beginning to question whether Juppe
could carry out deficit cuts crucial to France joining the
European single currency in 1999.
President Jacques Chirac was leaving for a weekend summit of
French-speaking nations in Cotonou in the West African republic
of Benin. Senior parliamentarian Piere Mazeaud said Juppe may
address the nation to explain his plans which unions have called
provocative and peremptory.
Demonstrations were to give way to talks on Friday but
prospects for an early agreement were grim.
Railway workers were meeting Transport Minister Bernard Pons
to discuss a plan to restore the loss-making SNCF to financial
health with state help tied to productivity improvements.
The FO union federation called the plan unacceptable and
said it would oppose any review of the railway workers'
favourable pension rights.
Education Minister Francois Bayrou was also meeting unions.
Faced with budget constraints, there was no sign that he could
bridge the gap between his proposals for extra funds and student
demands 10 times higher.
Reut18:20 11-30-95

Reuter N:Copyright 1995, Reuters News Service