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French strikers block Channel traffic

CALAIS, France, Dec 11 (AFP) – Workers at one of France’s ferry companies blocked traffic across and under the English Channel Thursday in a protest against plans to reorganise the merchant fleet.

Some 300 employees of the company, SeaFrance, parked their cars across both directions of a motorway near Calais to briefly stop all freight and vehicle traffic being loaded on trains using the tunnel under the Channel, journalists at the scene saw.

The Eurostar passenger train service between Paris and London, which uses a different part of the tunnel, was unaffected.

SeaFrance said its five ferries were forced to stay in the Calais port as a result of the strike, which was being followed by 80 percent of its 1,500 employees.

A union representative for SeaFrance workers said access to the eight ferries owned by the British company P and O was also blocked. Services were also interrupted between Marseille and the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

France’s upper house the Senate was to discuss a bill Thursday to liberalise the rules under which shipping can register under the French flag with the aim of boosting the size of the fleet. Unions say the proposed change threatens jobs and safety levels.

On Wednesday cross-channel ferry services had to be cancelled as a result of a blockade of Calais and other ports by French fishermen protesting against planned cuts in EU catch sizes.

 © AFP

                                                                Subject: France news