France labour dispute strike goes nationwide


Paris—Industrial action over labour law reforms is gripping France nationwide, with oil refineries, nuclear power stations and transport hubs affected.
Motorways and bridges were blocked and flights delayed while clashes erupted with police in several cities. Prime Minister Manuel Valls insists the reforms will not be withdrawn but has suggested they could be “modified”.
The action, building over three months, comes two weeks before France hosts the Euro 2016 football championships. A state of emergency imposed after November’s deadly attack by militants from the co-called Islamic State group in Paris remains in place.
The CGT union is leading the action, supported by six other unions including Force Ouvriere and Unef, whereas the more moderate CFDT union backs the labour reforms. Dozens of people broke away from a demonstration in Paris on Thursday and set about smashing shop windows and parked cars in a side street. Masked youths hurled bottles at police, who responded with tear gas.
Flights to and from Paris, Nantes and Toulouse have been affected, and a rolling strike by train drivers has brought further disruption to regional and commuter rail services. CGT union members at nuclear power plants voted on Wednesday to join the strike, and the union said 16 of the country’s 19 power stations would be affected.
Nuclear power provides about 75% of the country’s electricity. Grid operator RTE said nuclear power capacity was being cut by at least four gigawatts, equivalent to 6% of the country’s total production capacity, on Thursday, Reuters news agency reports.—Agencies

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