France heads for shutdown

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FRENCH lorry drivers blocked motorways yesterday as a strike wave gripped France bringing sections of the country to a virtual standstill.

The entire country is rising up against President François Hollande’s new labour laws, and French workers have planned a second strike tomorrow. Transport, including ports, trains and airports were shut down.

Truckers had managed to block strategic points in the north and south, notably Bordeaux, stopping deliveries to a supermarket hub and fuel depots and causing complete gridlock of the roads.

Despite the rising tide against the laws, Hollande has stubbornly insisted that he will enforce them regardless. After two months of protests, in which workers and youth have battled the CRS riot police resulting in 1,000 arrests, yesterday’s fresh action brought the greatest number of workers out on strike to date.

Seven unions, the CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, l’Unef, l’UNL and Fidl took part. The head of the French train drivers CGT union, Philippe Martinez, warned that workers are ‘engaging in a tough movement’.

CGT railworkers confirmed they plan to stage rolling strikes every Wednesday and Thursday from this week, right up until the Euro 2016 championships in June and July. The hated labour laws make it easier to hire and fire workers. The bill accepts the 35-hour week only as an average. Employers can now impose a 46-hour week if they wish.

Hollande’s government last week forced through the bill by using the so-called ‘nuclear’ option of bypassing a parliamentary vote. Ahead of yesterday’s strikes Hollande said: ‘I will not give in because too many previous governments have backed down.’

The law, he added, ‘is going to go through because it has been debated, agreed on and amended.’ Tomorrow will be the big day for airport strikes, with action by air traffic controllers, engineers, technicians and administrative staff which will affect air traffic and airports nationally.