Fwd: Strike chokes French business

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Thu May 18 05:28:31 MDT 2000


>From News Limited (Murdoch)
www.news.com.au

Strike chokes French business
By CHARLES BREMNER and ADAM SAGE
18may00

PARIS: France was a nation bartering for baguettes yesterday as a cash
crunch left people without ready money.

With a national strike by armoured car vans entering a second week,
automatic teller machines ran out, disrupting trade and forcing millions of
franc-deprived people to resort to credit cards, cheques and their wits to
get through the day.

More than 60 per cent of cash dispensers were closed, including almost all
on the Cote d'Azur frequented by tourists.

Plastic and paper, sometimes in the form of IOUs, were taking over from
small change even for the humblest transactions, down to bread and
cigarettes. Newsagents and small shopkeepers complained of lost business as
the unions rejected a new pay offer, scuttling hopes that the strike would
end quickly.

Making the most of public sympathy, the guards are demanding danger money
and new security measures after a wave of violent assaults by armed
robbers.

Foreign visitors who were caught in the money drought were joining the long
queues of customers for dwindling cash supplies at banks.

As shops accumulated dangerous quantities of notes, police mounted special
guards on big stores.

A passer-by was killed and a policeman wounded in a shootout after a
robbery attempt on Monday on a suburban Paris supermarket.

Alarmed at the prospect of economic damage, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
has announced plans for emergency legislation to answer guards' demands for
greater security. The Government also put pressure on the employers to
raise their offer to the guards.

The strikers were doing their best to heighten the pain of the cash
shortage by picketing branches of the Banque de France around the country,
preventing funds moving in or out of the state clearing houses.

In the time-honoured style of French strikers, van drivers took over the
toll booths of the main Paris-Strasbourg motorway, allowing cars free
transit.

The strike was sparked by a wave of violent assaults, in which the
attackers used rocket launchers and other military weapons to blast their
way into armoured cars. Five guards have been killed and more than 15
wounded over the past year.

"Before, we at least were given the chance of getting out of the van. Now
the attackers rake us with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers," said Frank
Decourtray, a guard from Cergy, north of Paris.






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