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Sat, 5 Apr 1997 17:04:03 GMT

------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Sat, 5 Apr 1997 07:35:33 -0800 (PST) From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org> Subject: (en) strikes in France Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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- Labor unrest rippled across France on Friday as bank employees joined airline personnel, junior hospital doctors and car workers in protests against state and private sector reforms. The junior doctors stormed out of talks with Social Affairs Minister Jacques Barrot, saying the government was refusing to offer concrete proposals to meet their demands for scrapping fines on doctors as part of health spending curbs. In the fourth week of their strike, they asked Prime Minister Alain Juppe to intervene in the conflict, now affecting 24 of France's 26 teaching hospitals. Juppe called on the doctors to reopen the talks, saying the government's proposals were worthy of consideration. "I regret that the negotiations have broken off," Juppe said from Bordeaux, where he is mayor. "I want everyone to come back to the table to discuss these proposals, which are significant." Barrot, too, deplored the interruption of discussions but said his door was open to the doctors when they were ready. Faced with a series of protests, the conservative government has vowed to push on with reforms it says are needed to keep France competitive and help it qualify for European monetary union in 1999. Workers in the troubled banking sector struck on Friday against government plans to change a 1937 law regulating work schedules. The change would allow banks to stay open on Saturdays and permit shift work. Unions say they are not opposed in principle but object to the government's lack of negotiation on the issue. The job action appeared to have been lightly followed, with France's AFB banking association reporting 11 percent of the sectors employees on strike. Societe Generale estimated about 20 percent of its workers followed the strike on average, with slightly more on strike outside Paris. Banque Nationale de Paris said 15 percent were on strike across its branches while Credit Lyonnais said about seven percent were on strike. The banks said more than 90 percent of their operations were running normally. Banking sector unions said they would issue statements later in the day. Ground crews at Air France Europe, protesting against terms of a merger of operations with Groupe Air France, planned scattered disruptions throughout the day. A group of ground staff briefly blocked a runway at Paris's Orly airport, causing flight delays of about 15 minutes. In Brussels, police turned water cannon on irate workers from French carmaker Renault marching in their hundreds in protest at plans to shutter their Belgian car plant at Vilvoorde with the loss of 3,100 jobs. Some 1,000 workers at a Renault plant in Le Mans downed tools for two hours in sympathy with Belgian colleagues. Renault, which lost 5.2 billion French francs ($923 million) in 1996, has also announced plans to cut nearly 3,000 jobs in France. Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer stood firm, saying neither the protests nor a Belgian court ruling on Thursday that Renault broke labor law by not consulting properly about the closure would change his plans. France is wary of pushing workers, dispirited by France's record 12.8 percent unemployment, into widespread conflict that could undermine its efforts. "The French are ready to make sacrifices. The proof is that they have already made many. Now they must get something in return," the left wing daily Liberation warned in an editorial.

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