Strike costing up to 400 million euros per day

20th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

20 November 2007, PARIS - With France braced for more walkouts this week, the rail strike over pension reforms is costing between 300 and 400 million euros daily, the government said Monday.

20 November 2007

PARIS - With France braced for more walkouts this week, the rail strike over pension reforms is costing between 300 and 400 million euros daily, the government said Monday.

The estimate provided by Finance Minister Christine Lagarde -- who noted an exact figure was hard to gauge -- hits a wide array of businesses, from steel giant ArcelorMittal, to stores, hotels and theaters.

Hardest hit by the walkout, which marked its sixth day Monday, is France's SNCF rail company, which has already lost "more than 100 million euros," according to president Anne-Marie Idrac.

The transportation strike is also costing Paris metro operator RATP four million euros a day and creating disruptions in rail-shipped supplies, officials said.

ArcelorMittal, for one, complains of losing wagon loads of goods and delivery deadlines gone unrespected.

"The consequences are dramatic for our clients," said Olivier Marembaud, head of SNCF's freight system.

The commercial sector is also raising the alarm, with independent stores claiming the most dramatic losses. Their drop in revenues of up to 50 percent is on a scale "not seen since May '68" when strikes and student protests swept through France, said Charles Mercer, president of the national clothing federation.

While the numbers of strikers are dropping off, the movement is expected to continue Tuesday -- joined by a separate and long-planned one-day protest by civil servants, hospital staff, teachers and other state employees.

The transportation walkout takes aim at a government-proposed overhaul of so-called "special" pensions systems enjoyed by 500,000 workers mainly in the rail and energy sectors, but also some members of the entertainment industry. Polls show the majority of French oppose the strike.

The Paris region has taken the biggest brunt of the walkout, which has created a commuting nightmare along with an economic one.

For the Paris-area hotel sector, the movement amounts to a 20 percent to 50 percent drop in clientele according to the local hotel union. Theatres have been similarly hit.

Meanwhile, exhibition centres around the capital fear a longer-term impact.

"These kinds of events weaken us compared to the foreign competition," said Phillippe Bertin, director of client operations at the Paris-Nord Villepin centre, who estimates turnout at its four showrooms dropped 20 percent last week.

Even those who should be profiting from the strike -- notably taxi drivers -- complain traffic jams have scuttled their profits.

Still one business is booming: bicycles.

The sports chain Decathlon, for one, claims a surge in bicycles and cycling equipment sales in its Paris stores -- but says the windfall still cannot compensate for its drop in clientele.

AFP

Subject: French news

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