France hit by day of protest as workers take to the streets

France hit by day of protest as workers take to the streets

Taxi drivers, teachers, farmers and air traffic controllers among employees taking industrial action across country.

Police have fired teargas at striking French taxi drivers who tried to march down a major Paris bypass on a day of protests against non-traditional car services such as Uber.

Hundreds of taxi drivers stationed themselves on airport routes and a major intersection into western Paris. Riot police used teargas to push back dozens of drivers who attempted to block the road near Porte Maillot; some drivers set fire to tyres.

The drivers are protesting against what they consider to be unfair competition from Uber and other non-licensed private hire cabs, and are seeking compensation. “Economic terrorism!” read one banner at the Porte Maillot protest. Police said they had made 20 arrests.

Drivers were expected to gather in front of the finance ministry later on Tuesday, while the Toulouse tramway was also expected to be targeted.

Thierry Guichard, a spokesman for the Taxis de France collective, said the government had failed to act to protect taxi drivers and “ensure respect for the regulations”.

Meanwhile, France was braced for a wider day of disruption as other workers, including air traffic controllers, staged parallel strike action. Their unions said they wanted be exempted from proposed changes to how salaries are calculated, which they say would hurt their purchasing power. The air traffic controllers were also protesting at what they said was the loss of 1,000 jobs in less than 10 years.

The French civil aviation authority on Monday called on airlines to cancel one in five flights as a preventive measure ahead of the strike.

Air France said it would operate all its long-haul flights and more than 80% of its short- and medium-haul flights in France and elsewhere in Europe, but that “last-minute delays or cancellations cannot be ruled out”.

Other workers taking industrial action and staging street marches included teachers, hospital workers and livestock farmers who want better prices for their produce.

Unions had called on France’s 5.6 million civil servants to stop work to protest against labour reforms proposed last September affecting pay and career advancement. Unions said a pay freeze has cost public sector workers a part of their spending power. The striking unions also denounced job losses of 150,000 since 2007 and said hospitals were especially hard hit.

Separately, primary school teachers and crèche workers were also striking for higher pay, with unions claiming about a third were expected to take part. Other teachers were protesting for a fourth time against middle-school reforms that come into force in September.