-  Sunday 20 September 2020

    France faces more protests next week that could snarl train, road travel

    France faces more strikes on Tuesday, after the French president today said he will go ahead with a controversial labor law.
    Strikes and demonstrations this week by students and trade unions have snarled traffic on roads and some railways in France, stranding both commuters and tourists, and more than a million people marched in protest across the country. Rail traffic was stopped for several hours Thursday at the Gare de Lyon, one of the major train stations in Paris, after protesters blocked the tracks with wood beams.

    The law, aimed at cutting youth unemployment, reduces job protection by making it easier to for young workers to be fired.

    Some labor leaders said today that strikes already planned for April 4 should go ahead, even though President Jacques Chirac did offer some concessions in the law in an effort to calm the furious protests. In Paris this week, police used water cannons to break up some student protests, and hundreds of people were arrested.

    Worldwide media coverage of the demonstrations could hamper tourism in Paris, one of the world's top visitor destinations. This spring's unrest follows violent protests last fall in outlying, mainly immigrant areas of Paris and other French cities.

    Tourist traffic to Paris dropped by about 4 percent after those riots, Marie-Christine Dubos, a spokeswoman for SNAV, the union of French travel agencies, told the Bloomberg news service.

    "And that wasn't even the peak season," she said. "We are reaching the peak season now. It's essential these protests end soon."

    Already, some countries including the U.S. and Japan, have advised visitors to be cautious. The U.S. State Department said:

    "Recent demonstrations have occurred at times in areas (of Paris) frequented by tourists. Some of the demonstrations may be announced, while others may be spontaneous. Police have responded by using tear gas.... The Department of State advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in France to avoid areas where crowds are expected to gather, to exercise caution, particularly during evening and nighttime hours, and to closely follow media reports."


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