More strikes hit France but no walkout ahead of Euro 2016

French workers still bent on quashing reforms but the threat of mass transport chaos is lifted for fooball

A demonstrator waves a smoke flare in Marseilles on June 2, 2016, in protest at the French government’s labour reforms. Anne-Christine Poujoulat/ Agence France Presse
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PARIS// Fresh strikes and violent protests hit France Thursday, but there’s no need for football fans to panic. With only a week to go before Euro 2016, transport chaos was averted when airport staff cancelled a walkout and a strike on the Paris metro caused little disruption.

With half of all trains nationally cancelled barely a week before Euro 2016 kicks off on June 10, union chiefs had hoped to bring Paris to a halt but the metro strike had little effect. Meanwhile, air-traffic controllers agreed a deal with the government thus lifting the threat of flights grounded over the weekend.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said: “What the government is doing ... is sorting out each of the situations one by one.”

But football fans can’t totally relax as there is plenty of potential for the unions to cause trouble during the Euro tournament, which already pose a major security challenge after last year’s jihadist attacks in Paris.

Workers were back on strike at 16 of the country’s 19 nuclear power stations, six of France’s eight oil refineries are either shut or operating at reduced capacity and Air France pilots are threatening a four-day walkout starting on June 11.

On Thursday, strikers occupied the tracks at a railway hub in Paris and created electricity blackouts by cutting power to a large power line in western France.

Though each group of workers has its own reasons for striking, all are united in their opposition to new labour reforms which the Socialist government says are aimed at which the government says are designed to boost the country’s flagging economy and tackle high unemployment by making France more business-friendly. But the speedy passing of the new law through the lower house of the French parliament has outraged the unions and the anger has spilled over into violence at times. Strikers clashed with police in Nantes, Toulouse and Rennes and erected blockades at a major naval shipyard in Saint-Nazaire.

But despite the violence, the government of President Francois Hollande is determined not to capitulate. Labour minister Khomri insisted, ““We will not withdraw the bill, “ while the prime minister Manuel Valis decried the “waste” caused by the strike, telling parliament on Wednesday, “This conflict is weighing on our economy at a time when the actions of the government are allowing a rebound, growth and a fall in unemployment.”

President Hollande himself has criticised the unions for tarnishing the image of France.

* Agence France Presse