Striking Marseille seamen battle with riot police

18th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, April 18 (AFP) - Hundreds of striking seamen set light to cars and pelted police with pieces of metal and distress flares Monday, as they tried to close down the port of Marseille in a dispute over reform of the French shipping registry.

MARSEILLE, France, April 18 (AFP) - Hundreds of striking seamen set light to cars and pelted police with pieces of metal and distress flares Monday, as they tried to close down the port of Marseille in a dispute over reform of the French shipping registry.  

Employees of the state-owned Corsica-Mediterranean National Company (SNCM), which operates ferries to Corsica and North Africa, blockaded entrances to the port with tractors and loading-vehicles and took refuge on a cargo ship when riot police intervened.  

Six brand new cars awaiting embarkation for export were set on fire and at least two others pushed into the sea, officials said. Security fences were also vandalised. Strikers turned water-cannon on the police before an agreement to end the violence was reached early afternoon.  

SNCM workers have been on strike since Tuesday in protest against government changes to the rules for registering shipping under a French flag. Unions say it will lead to low-paid foreigners taking over French jobs.  

Already in grave financial difficulty, SNCM is losing EUR 1.5 million euros (USD 1.95 million) a day because of the action, as passengers transfer to its competitors, company president Bruno Vergobbi said.  

© AFP

Subject: French News

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