France braced for transport strikes ahead of Euro 2016

France is readying itself for reduced train services as rail workers prepared to begin striking late yesterday even as a separate protest movement by refinery operators shows signs of easing.

National train operator SNCF said six in 10 high-speed trains should run today as three unions called for strike action at 7pm yesterday, while fewer than half of trains will be available for commuter and other services.

The spreading labour unrest has president Francois Hollande scrambling to calm the situation 10 days before the beginning of the Euro 2016 football tournament, which France is hosting.

While Mr Hollande vowed again yesterday to press ahead with his labour reform, his government is seeking a settlement with rail unions, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The proposed law won’t be withdrawn,” Mr Hollande said in an interview with Sud Ouest newspaper.

“It represents useful progress for our country that I believe we have to see it through.”

The French government began speaking directly to rail unions in recent days, offering concessions that SNCF management disagreed with. SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pepy even threatened to resign over the concessions, according to Les Echos newspaper.

Meanwhile, France’s second largest union CGT has also called for a stoppage at the RATP, which manages Paris’s metro and buses starting Thursday, and for a 24-hour strike on Thursday at France’s ports.

The UNSA-INCA union of air traffic controllers has called for a strike from Friday until Sunday, and Air France’s main pilot union, the SNPL, said 68% of its members voted to strike soon to protest the airline’s plans to cut pay.

The situation at France’s petrol stations has improved since last week, when there were long lines of motorists waiting to fill up.

About 20% of petrol stations were dry or faced partial shortages, said Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres.

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