French air, rail & waste industry strikes as Euro 2016 kicks off

A pile of garbage bags is seen in front of the cafe in Paris during a strike of garbage collectors and sewer workers to protest the labour reforms law proposal, France, June 8, 2016 © Charles Platiau / Reuters

French authorities say they will not allow strikes by public sector workers to disrupt the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer championship.

With the eyes of the world on France during the month-long tournament, officials are keen to ensure things run smoothly amid an ongoing wave of strikes by air, rail and waste industry workers.

Fifty private collection rubbish trucks were deployed to clear tons of rotting garbage around the streets of Paris, after waste treatment workers staged a walkout.

Another 30 trucks will hit the streets on Friday ahead of the tournament’s opening game between France and Romania.

“All the rubbish will be cleared up, starting now, today,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “It will take a few days, obviously.”

The striking waste treatment staff have pledged to continue their protest into next week, while workers at state-owned SNCF railways are well into their second week of industrial action.

Transport Minister Alain Vidalies said train drivers would be forced to ensure public transport for fans if needed.

“If requisitioning is required, we will do it,” Vidalies said. “There will be no more negotiating. There’s no longer any reason to continue the strike if it’s not for political reasons.”

Government changes to the country’s labor laws, which will make hiring and firing much easier, have caused the dispute.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has repeatedly said he will not withdraw the plans.

Air travel could also be affected during Euro 2016, with Air France pilots planning a four-day strike on Saturday in protest at pay cuts.

The airline said around 20 percent of flights could be affected.

Union leaders have threatened to disrupt the tournament if the government refuses to back down, with protests on railway tracks one tactic at their disposal.

Vidalies told Europe 1 radio that this would be “an action against France and the French people” and that he hoped this wouldn’t happen.

Philippe Martinez, whose left-wing CGT union is leading the strikes, said he was due to meet Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri on June 17, three days after a planned national protest against the reform.

“That’s what we have been demanding for months. It’s high time,” Martinez told Reuters. “It’s better if we talk.”

French President Francois Hollande has also waded into the row, saying everyone had a duty to ensure the tournament passed off 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.

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