France: strikes, trash taint image as it hosts soccer event
PARIS (AP) The Paris mayor is promising to clear all city streets of garbage by the end of the day after 12 days of strikes that have left a stinky mess - and further clouded France's image as it hosts the European Championship soccer tournament.
Unions remain determined to keep up strikes at the main Paris waste incineration plant, on commuter trains taking fans to the opening match Friday, and on Air France flights starting Saturday. The strikes are part of months of nationwide labor action aimed at forcing the government to scrap a bill extending the work week and making layoffs easier.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city has brought in dozens of extra garbage trucks over the past two days to clear the accumulated rubbish, which is getting especially smelly in the warm, muggy weather.
''All the garbage will be collected today,'' she told BFM television Friday.
The challenge will be finding a place to dump it: Striking workers have blocked the main waste plant serving the city for several days.
Baptiste Talbot of the CGT public workers union said Hidalgo's prognosis was ''a bit optimistic,'' but didn't object to the move. ''We want to maintain pressure with the strike, but we are sensitive to sanitary issues,'' he told The Associated Press.
He said the city could requisition private companies to clear streets normally served by public workers, and then truck the garbage to other regions or plants where workers are not on strike.
France's transport chief, meanwhile, is threatening to force striking train drivers back to work to ensure transport for fans attending the soccer tournament.
Alain Vidalies, junior minister for transport, insisted that enough trains to the opening match would be ensured. Railway and subway authorities promised extra trains to bypass the strikers and carry 70,000 people to the stadium to watch France against Romania at the Stade de France at 9 p.m. on Friday night.
But asked if the government would use a special measure to force train drivers back to work for reasons of public order, Vidalies said on Europe-1 radio that if transport problems worsen Saturday, ''we will do it.''
The unpopular French President Francois Hollande and his government need for the soccer tournament to be a success. France had already been on high alert for potential extremist violence around the tournament - the country remains in a state of emergency after deadly attacks last year - and the strikes and protests have added to strain on the authorities.
Euro 2016 organizer Jacques Lambert said the strikes have already stained the event, and are especially hurting working class fans who depend on public transport.
''The image given is not the one we wanted,'' he said on France-Inter radio.