French postal staff strikeagainst post offices closures

21st September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 21 (AFP) - Many of France's 320,000 postal workers went on strike Tuesday to protest reorganisation plans they fear will lead to nearly half of the country's 14,000 post offices being closed with massive lay-offs.

PARIS, Sept 21 (AFP) - Many of France's 320,000 postal workers went on strike Tuesday to protest reorganisation plans they fear will lead to nearly half of the country's 14,000 post offices being closed with massive lay-offs.  

Management of the state-owned La Poste said seven to nine percent of the personnel observed the nationwide stoppage, while one of the three main unions behind it said 15 to 20 percent stopped work.  

La Poste added that it had taken steps to ensure mail and courier deliveries would not be halted. "Disturbances will therefore be very limited for all clients, both companies and individuals," it said.  

La Poste is planning on reducing the number of post offices dotted around France in an effort to streamline operations and put it on a competitive footing compared to counterparts in other European countries, but it has been coy on details.  

France's left-wing opposition parties issued statements supporting the unions' action, saying the office closures were a threat to the postal service's public service mission and were programmed by President Jacques Chirac's conservative government.  

The Socialist Party said it would follow up the strike with its own "defence campaign" in October.  

"Our aim is to underline our attachment to the public service role of La Poste," it said in a statement.  

Several EU governments have opened up mail delivery to competition or are about to do so, extending the commercial rivalry that already exists in the parcel courier business.  

Increasing e-mail usage has also eaten away at the need for neighbourhood offices.  

The prospect of privatising or partly privatising post offices is on the cards for several countries, including Britain and France.

The Netherlands and Germany have already opened up their services to private investment.  

Unions covering La Poste workers fear the plans will result in 6,000 French post offices being closed by 2007, and that 10,000 jobs will be cut.  

They were to hold a demonstration later Tuesday in front of the Paris headquarters of La Poste.  

The mayors of some remote regions have promised to join the protest out of concern that their communities will find themselves increasingly isolated by the closures.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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