French power workers threatof strike havoc Tuesday

28th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 28 (AFP) - The main union involved in a campaign by French utility workers against the partial privatization of their industry vowed on Monday to step up protest actions to mark a parliamentary vote on the issue.

PARIS, June 28 (AFP) - The main union involved in a campaign by French utility workers against the partial privatization of their industry vowed on Monday to step up protest actions to mark a parliamentary vote on the issue.

The call from the CGT union came as electricity workers caused commuter havoc by again cutting off power supplies to parts of the rail and underground transit system in Paris, with enraged company officials saying that at least some of the outages resulted from criminal sabotage.

A spokesman for RTE, the division that supplies power to the railways, said "saboteurs" had damaged equipment at a switching centre west of Paris, cutting supplies to the Saint Lazare terminal that brings passengers from the west and northwest of Paris.

The state railway company SNCF and RTE both said they would seek to identify the alleged saboteurs and take legal action against them - raising the prospect of further conflict with the CGT electricity workers' union.

However the union denied that its members had been involved in the Saint-Lazare outage.

Meanwhile the CGT called for "wide-scale action" by its activists on Tuesday, when parliament is due to vote on a bill that would change the legal status of the state-owned power utility EDF to allow partial privatization and the entry of other companies into the French market for power.

The actions are the latest in a continuing campaign against the government's plans for EDF, which is Europe's largest power supplier and nuclear operator.

A spokeswoman for the state railway company SNCF said an estimated 150,000 passengers were affected by Monday's delays at Saint-Lazare, while traffic on the Paris metro and the city's regional express network (RER) was also disrupted. The situation returned to normal in mid-morning.

It was the second such disruption this month. In earlier protests, hundreds of thousands of passengers were affected by a series of wildcat operations against the railways.

France is under heavy pressure from the European Union to end EDF's protected monopoly status. Rival utilities in Britain, Italy and Spain have complained bitterly to the European Commission about EDF's incursions into their privatized markets, while they are excluded from the French market.

The EU also says the state financial guarantees enjoyed by EDF are illegal.

The government wants to turn EDF and its sister utility Gaz de France (GDF), into public corporations with limited outside capital participation, and gradually open up the domestic market to competition - a move the 110,000 electricity workers fear will lead to a loss of jobs and and end to their protected status as public service workers.

Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised workers they will retain their job status for life and keep their generous early retirement and pension privileges. He has also said the state will not allow its stake in EDF to fall below 70 percent.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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