Taxi drivers in Paris and other major cities in France blocked roads Tuesday morning, causing traffic jams, while industrial actions by air traffic controllers led to the cancelation of about one in five flights, according to media reports. The strikes, in which teachers and civil servants are also taking part, are reportedly to protest shrinking purchasing power.
Hundreds of taxis, including some from Belgium and Spain, blocked an intersection leading to western Paris while dozens of taxi drivers tried to march from the intersection onto an eight-lane bypass, the Associated Press reported. Police used tear gas to disperse the taxi drivers who reportedly threw tires on the highway and lit bonfires. About 1,200 taxis also held “go slows” around airports and a peripheral ring road around Paris.
Traditional taxi drivers were protesting against ride-hailing services like Uber, which are called VTCs in France, the Local reported. Another protest in June had led to rules that prevent VTCs from encroaching on the traditional taxis’ turf, but drivers’ unions said the rules were not being enforced, leading to the current protest.
Air traffic controllers were demanding for more personnel to be recruited to reduce the workload on existing staff, who the unions say were overworked. The rise in the number of controllers had not kept pace with the increase in air traffic, union leaders said.
“If this continues we will no longer be able to deal with the rise of air traffic,” union leader Olivier Joffrin was quoted in the Local.
The controllers’ union also wanted exemption from proposed changes to how their salaries are calculated, fearing a reduction in their purchasing power, according to the Local.
A pay freeze in place since 2010 was the cause of ire for civil servants, who were also protesting the loss of about 150,000 jobs since 2007. According to a union, the 2010 freeze on the index used to calculate salaries had cost civil servants 8 percent of their purchasing power, the French news website reported.
All sorts of public institutions, from hospitals to tourist spots, were affected by the civil servants’ strike.
Kindergarten and primary school teachers were on protest demanding higher pay. According to the Local, French primary school teachers have a monthly average wage of 2,100 euros ($2,275), compared to 3,900 euros ($4,225) in Germany.
There were also reports of farmers, upset over falling prices, setting up roadblocks at some places in the country, including eastern Paris.
A taxi driver was reportedly injured at Paris’ Orly Airport when a bus forced its way through a blockade he was part of. The passengers in the bus were then forced off the bus and made to walk to the airport.