Brawls erupt as French strike demands higher wages

PARIS (Reuters) – Dozens of black-clad protesters clashed with police and smashed shop windows on Tuesday on the sidelines of a demonstration as several thousand people took to the streets of Paris to demand higher wages as inflation wiped out their homes. purchasing power.

Early in the evening, the Interior Ministry said 11 people were arrested in Paris, adding that 107,000 people nationwide followed the protest call from left-wing parties and some unions, including 13,000 in the capital. The hardline union CGT said 70,000 people took part in the Paris rally.

Regional train traffic fell by about half as several unions called a nationwide strike, seeking to capitalize on anger over decades of high inflation to expand weeks of industrial activity in oil refineries to other economic sectors.

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“The question of wages is the first priority of the French people,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, said before the rally. “It is more than urgent,” he said.

“At some point it just couldn’t handle it,” said Leticia Berthollet, one of the protesters, referring to a wage increase of just €10 per month from the furniture chain she works for. “I am a single mother with two children. We tighten our belts … we have no choice. But it is not easy.”

With the march tense, Reuters reporters saw police accusing protesters while footage surfaced on social media of masked people dressed in black smashing shop windows.

Strikes threaten infrastructure

Tuesday’s protests, which opposition politicians have been promoting for weeks, were small in comparison to those of the yellow vest movement or opposition to rent reform during President Emmanuel Macron’s first term.

But in the midst of an energy crisis across Europe, strikes have become the president’s toughest challenge since his re-election in May.

As an industrial procedure in the oil major TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) Continuing to put pressure on gasoline supplies for the fourth week with no clear end in sight, the government faces the risk of a broader strike that could destroy other parts of the infrastructure.

France’s national grid operator RTE warned on Tuesday that prolonged strikes were delaying the restart of some reactors in the EDF nuclear power group. (EDF.PA) It could have “serious consequences” for the country’s electricity supply during the coming winter.

Trade union leaders had hoped the government’s decision to force some back to work in fuel depots to try to restore the flow of fuel, a decision some say jeopardizes the right to strike.

But a poll by Elabe pollsters for BFM TV showed that only 39% of the public supported Tuesday’s call for a nationwide strike, while 49% opposed it, and growing numbers opposed the oil refinery workers’ strike.

On the transport front, Eurostar said it had canceled some trains between London and Paris due to the strike. French public rail operator SNCF said traffic on regional connections fell by 50% but national lines were not disrupted.

With tensions rising in the eurozone’s second-largest economy, strikes have spread to other parts of the energy sector, including nuclear power giant EDF. (EDF.PA)as critical maintenance work on Europe’s energy supply will be delayed.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne said on Sunday the strikes were taking place as the government prepared to pass the 2023 budget using special constitutional powers that would allow it to bypass a vote in Parliament.

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Additional reporting by Sudeep Kar Gupta, Dominic Vidalon, Benoit van Overstraten, Myriam Rift, Juliette Gabkeiro; Writing by Ingrid Melander and Tassilo Hamel; Editing by Jerry Doyle, Emilia Sithole Mataris and Alexandra Hudson

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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