Drenched and disgruntled in France

A worker in a Darth Vader mask at a protest led by the militant CGT union group. Strikes all over France have disrupted public services as people protest against changes to labour law that would make it easier to hire and fire workers.
A worker in a Darth Vader mask at a protest led by the militant CGT union group. Strikes all over France have disrupted public services as people protest against changes to labour law that would make it easier to hire and fire workers.PHOTO: REUTERS
The French police's Raid unit carrying out an anti-terror drill ahead of the upcoming Euro 2016. France will deploy nearly 90,000 security personnel during the month-long soccer competition.
The French police's Raid unit carrying out an anti-terror drill ahead of the upcoming Euro 2016. France will deploy nearly 90,000 security personnel during the month-long soccer competition.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

French govt calls for end to strikes amid high terror threat ahead of Euro 2016

PARIS • Days of torrential rain have only added to the gloomy atmosphere in France, already facing a third full day of train strikes after months of protests and political turmoil.

With images of inundated towns and flooded homes flashing across television screens, the swelling waters have been a distraction for a government dealing with a maximum-level terror threat ahead of the Euro 2016 soccer championship. The month-long competition starts on June 10 and is expected to draw 2.5 million fans to France.

About 90,000 security personal will be deployed to secure Euro 2016, according to the Interior Ministry. In the wake of last year's terror attacks in Paris, France is wary of the possibility of a terror attack when large crowds gather for the sporting spectacle.

France's government called yesterday for an end to the national rail strike that has reduced train services by about half. The number of staff taking part fell to just above 10 per cent yesterday, rail operator SNCF said.

The concerns about transport during Euro 2016 eased somewhat on Thursday after air traffic controllers called off a walkout that had been expected to ground flights this weekend.

More travel disruption was to come, however, with pilots at flag carrier Air France planning to strike from June 11 through to 14 in a dispute with management. The government has told the pilots their plans to stop work were "irresponsible".

Air France chief executive officer Frederic Gagey said soccer fans seeking to attend the Euro 2016 games can "take trains, drive cars" or fly other airlines to get to France.

However, anyone driving to France might have to consider filling up before the border. Four of oil company Total's five refineries in France have been halted by unrest.

While a run on fuel resulted in hundreds of petrol stations running out of supplies, by late Thursday, Total was reporting that only 47 of its 2,200 stations were without fuel.

Household rubbish risked building up in the Paris region and elsewhere in the country. Three of the four main refuse centres in Paris were blockaded by union activists.

Meanwhile, about 20,000 homes across the country were without electricity yesterday morning because of the floods, according to I-Tele, citing power distribution group Enedis. But 125,000 homes were temporarily without power on Thursday near the port city of Saint-Nazaire in western France after protesting workers disconnected power lines.

The militant CGT union is spearheading strikes at the state rail company and at refineries and nuclear power stations in a bid to force the government to withdraw a contested reform of labour laws that would make hiring and firing easier.

The core protest has coincided with sectoral issues such as difficult reorganisation negotiations to prepare the SNCF for Europe-wide liberalisation of train traffic in 2020 and, at Air France, efforts to reduce costs. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Drenched and disgruntled in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe