French energy workers black out Chirac's office,Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees

17th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - Protesting French electricity workers blacked out the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees and the offices of President Jacques Chirac Wednesday as they pushed on with a campaign to stop the privatisation of their state-owned company.

PARIS, June 16 (AFP) - Protesting French electricity workers blacked out the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees and the offices of President Jacques Chirac Wednesday as they pushed on with a campaign to stop the privatisation of their state-owned company.

Power to the Parisian landmarks was cut for around 15 minutes, the management of the Eiffel Tower and one of the workers' unions, the CGT, told AFP.

The US and British embassies and several French ministries, including the foreign ministry, also had their plugs pulled around the same time, the union said.

There were no reports of any emergencies caused by the abrupt blackout.Workers from France's state Electricite de France (EDF) and Gaz de France (GDF) companies have been staging wildcat actions across the country in recent weeks to force the government to back down on its liberalisation plans.

On Tuesday, they cut power to several cities and towns and to the country home of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin while thousands of colleagues held a march in Paris.

The French parliament is debating a bill that would change the corporate status of EDF and GDF to allow private investment.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has demanded France take steps to allow competitors into the previously closed energy sector.

Economy and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday emphasised before parliament that "in terms of EDF... don't doubt for one minute that my determination to see through the reform is total".

He has said that the state planned to sell off 30 percent of the electricity utility, but that would "likely" not happen before the middle of next year.

The CGT and three other unions covering the energy sector said Wednesday they were just as equally determined to continue their protests and power cuts.EDF and GDF are among the biggest companies in France.

EDF has a payroll of 167,000 employees, revenues of EUR 45 billion (USD 54 billion), and controls or has stakes in several energy companies abroad.

The smaller but more profitable GDF has 38,000 employees and revenues of EUR 17 billion.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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