France struggles to quell labour unrest ahead of Euro Cup

Paris: Just eight days before the opening of the 2016 Euro Cup soccer tournament, the French government is scrambling to quell labour strife that threatens to paralyse transportation ahead of the arrival of an estimated 1.5 million foreign visitors. Strikes are being called and cancelled with such rapidity that it is hard to predict from one day to the next which forms of transportation will operate and which will be crippled by protests against an unpopular overhaul of labour laws, EFE news agency reported. Even as Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the media that only 4 percent of gas stations remain closed, walkouts began to have an increasing impact on air and rail travel. Air traffic controllers called off a strike scheduled for the upcoming weekend, but unions representing pilots at Air France voted on Thursday to stage a walkout from July 11-14, when the Euro Cup will be in full swing. That announcement came hours after Valls said the pilots had pledged not to strike during the tournament. Roughly 15 percent of state railway employees remained off the job on Thursday, forcing management to cancel 40 percent of domestic TGV (high-speed) trains and 60 percent of commuter trains in Greater Paris. While passenger trains linking France to Britain and Germany operated normally, routes to Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy were affected by the walkout.