French utilities unions in wild power cut protests

9th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 9 (AFP) - Energy sector unions in France have started staging wildcat power cuts in a bid to stop the partial privatisation of the state-run electricity company EDF, prompting condemnation from the government concerned about widespread disruption.

PARIS, June 9 (AFP) - Energy sector unions in France have started staging wildcat power cuts in a bid to stop the partial privatisation of the state-run electricity company EDF, prompting condemnation from the government concerned about widespread disruption.

The outtages are "not acceptable" and are "extremely worrying", government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said Wednesday.

"Hundreds of thousands of French people have found themselves trapped and there are major safety risks," he told BFM radio.

On Monday, EDF workers pulled the plug on the main railway lines around Paris, forcing delays or the cancellation of 250 trains which affected 500,000 travellers.

Other actions over the past weeks have included power cuts to the homes of members of the centre-right ruling party, a McDonald's fast-food outlet in the centre of the country, a variety of state offices in different parts of the country, and to street lighting in Paris, Bordeaux and on the French Riviera.

Unions have threatened to intensify their campaign up to next Tuesday, when the parliament is to examine a bill calling for changes to the corporate status of EDF and its gas counterpart, GDF, to allow private investment.Employees from both state companies are plannning a major demonstration in Paris on that day.

In the face of such resistance, the government has publicly scaled back its privatisation ambitions, with Economy and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy promising that the state's stake in EDF will not fall below 70 percent.

The European Union's competition commissioner, Mario Monti, told French state television Tuesday that the European Commission was "completely neutral" when it came to the debate on whether a member country should privatise public utilities.

What the bloc's executive body demanded, though, was that the French government ended its "unlimited guarantee" in backing EDF, which he said distorted the playing field for competitors looking to enter the national energy market.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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