Hollande warns unions over Euro 2016


French President Francois Hollande has warned against attempts to disrupt Euro 2016 with strike action, on the eve of the football tournament.

France has been in the grip of industrial action, mainly over reforms to labour law, and a train strike could affect Friday’s opening match.

Train drivers are threatening to strike on a line serving the Stade de France in St Denis just outside Paris.

The stadium will host Friday evening’s match between France and Romania.

Football fans arriving in Paris and several other cities this week have been greeted by the sight and smell of uncollected rubbish sacks as trade unionists blockade incinerators.

The country is also on high alert since the jihadist attacks on Paris in November, and is recovering from flood damage in central and northern regions.

Mr Hollande said everyone had a duty to ensure that the competition was allowed to proceed without incident.

“I appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility because if the state must do its duty – and it will, it will take all the measures that are necessary,” he said on Thursday.

“At the same time, it is also necessary that those who are taking part in actions, or who are organising them should also shoulder their responsibility… so that this great event can be a shared popular festival.”

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard appealed to the unions to think about the football fans.

“While there are times when strikes can take place, we are now on the eve of an event during which they are going to prevent some fans from getting to the stadium,” he said. “That’s just not normal.”

Strikers defiant

But train driver Berenger Cernon, secretary general of the CGT union at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, was unapologetic.

“It’s not us who determine the calendar,” he said.

“We did not decide that the Euro will take place on this date. There is a social movement going on now, the re-organisation [of labour] continues, the labour law continues.

“We want the negotiations on the collective agreements be open for everybody. So yes, clearly this will disturb the Euro [tournament] and we will continue the strike.”

He added that efforts were under way to try to resolve the situation although so far they only concerned the state rail company (SNCF).

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste have gone uncollected in Paris, according to the authorities.

Zahier, a waiter in a restaurant in the Latin Quarter where rubbish spilled out of bins into the narrow, cobbled streets, told AFP news agency: “Customers are looking out at the dustbins, so obviously it’s making them lose their appetite.”

Mounds of waste have also been building up in the southern city of Marseille, which will host four Euro 2016 matches, including England’s clash with Russia on Saturday.


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