François Hollande appeals to strikers over Euro 2016 disruption
has appealed to striking French workers to limit disruption to public services as the football tournament opens in France amid ongoing stoppages on trains and at rubbish treatment plants and some refineries.
The French president stopped short of saying the government would force train drivers back to work, but said public services would be guaranteed and told the trade unionists organising strike and protest action that “they should shoulder their responsibility … so this great event can be a shared popular festival”.
The unpopular Socialist party leader, who is hoping to run for re-election next year, needs the showpiece to pass without incident to boost the government’s standing, the country’s grim mood – and Paris’s bid for the 2024 Olympics.
Piles of rotting rubbish on many streets in Paris and Marseille, and cancelled trains and flights are causing a headache as prepares to welcome more than 2 million foreign visitors during the month-long tournament.
The Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, promised on Friday that “all the rubbish will be cleared up, starting now, today”, as bin bags, boxes and rotting waste piled up on pavements in half of the city’s neighbourhoods, including popular tourist areas on the Left Bank.
The key rubbish-processing sites in the Paris area have been blocked by strikers from the hardline CGT union for more than 10 days as part of long-running protests against . Refuse collectors and bin-lorry drivers have joined in.
Public sector waste treatment staff who have been on strike for days have vowed to continue the protest at least until Tuesday, but the city called in extra bin lorries and brought in private firms to begin clearing rubbish on Friday. “It will take a few days, obviously,” Hidalgo said.
The challenge will be finding a place to dump the rubbish as strikers continue to block the main waste plant serving the Paris area.
Baptiste Talbot of the CGT union told the Associated Press that Hidalgo’s bid to clear up all the rubbish at once was “a bit optimistic”, but did not object to the move. “We want to maintain pressure with the strike, but we are sensitive to sanitary issues,” he said.
Rubbish is also piling up in the southern port city of Marseille as its key refuse treatment centre remains blocked. Strikes also continued in some other towns in the south-west.
Workers at the state railway, SNCF, entered their 10th day of a rolling strike over working conditions. Across France more trains were running, with four out of five high-speed TGV trains on schedule, but there was disruption on some services including two major Paris commuter lines, the RER B and D, which serve the national stadium, the Stade de France, where Euro 2016 kicks off when France play Romania on Friday night.
Rail authorities promised extra trains to carry 70,000 people to the stadium to watch the match. Metro services to stations near the stadium were unaffected.
The transport minister, Alain Vidalies, said that if transport problems worsened on Saturday, the government would consider using a special measure to force train drivers back to work.
Asked on 1 radio if images broadcast worldwide of rotting rubbish would also compromise Paris’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, Vidalies quipped: “I didn’t see any hordes of rats on my way here.”
Air France pilots will begin a four-day strike on Saturday over pay and conditions, with 20% of flights cancelled. One in four medium-haul flights will be scrapped and about one in 10 long-haul and domestic flights.
The Euro 2016 organiser, Jacques Lambert, told France Inter radio he felt the strikes had already marred the tournament. “The image given is not the one we wanted,” he said.