Workers at France's seven biggest ports went on strike today to protest a government plan to sell dock-equipment management to private companies and take staff off public payrolls.
Sixty-seven vessels including thirty-nine tankers stranded at the harbor's entrance. Government officials, port managers and union representatives are yet to tally the costs of the strike. A 17-day walkout last year in Marseille alone cost Manutention Generale Mediterraneenne, the port's biggest cargo- handler, €1.5 million ($2.4 million).
The ports plan is set to threaten jobs and unions say there will be "serious economic consequences" if the government doesn't back down on its port reforms for which they say there is "no real economic and financial necessity".
Port workers pledged to intensify disruptions after today's one-day walkout. The CGT called for strikes three nights a week and an end to overtime work. Ports will be blocked during the nights of April 24 and 25, it said. Le Havre will be closed for 24 hours starting mid-day on May 26.
"We will increase our protests until we see positive changes in the government's plan" said Brice Triboulet, a union representative for CGT in Le Havre.
In 1992, Confederation Generale du Travail, the largest labor union at French ports, shut down operations for 170 days to protest against a law that moved dockworkers to non-state companies.