Paris taxi-driver protest intensifies

French riot police and firefighters have cleared a Paris ring road at rush-hour.

Taxi drivers angry about competition from private car-ride firms had thrown tyres across the roadway and set them alight.

The nationwide protest coincided with a walkout by air-traffic controllers that forced airlines to cut flights by 20%, and another protest by teachers that disrupted schooling.

The stoppages by air traffic controllers and teachers were part of a wider labour action by state employees, who are being urged by several unions to flex their muscles ahead of talks on long-running wage-restraint measures.

Television footage showed protesters dropping tyres from a higher byroad down onto the four-lane Paris ring-road, while others burned tyres that blocked lanes. 

Police arrested 20 people.

In other cities, such as Toulouse, in southwest France, taxi drivers said they were prepared to protest for days to combat what they say is unfair competition from drivers working for private cab-ride services, such as Uber.

A stoppage by state-employed air traffic controllers caused the cancellation of one in five flights, according to the DGAC air-transport authority.

Similarly, schools faced no-shows from teachers urged by labour unions to protest against the reorganisation of language learning, and other aspects of secondary schooling, and to demand that the government loosen a wage cap of several years’ standing.

France’s civil service minister, Marylise Lebranchu, offered little prospect of a significant pay rise after five years of salary caps.

Deficit reduction, as well as spending rises on security, after recent Islamist militant attacks, limit the government’s scope for change.

“The rate of economic growth and state receipts needs to be taken into account and I think that state employees are aware of that,” Lebranchu told France 2 public TV.

Separately, taxi drivers staged nationwide protests, including blockages of airport access roads and other strategic road network points. 

They argue that the regulation of other car-ride services is not being respected, leading to uneven competition.


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