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French Drivers Protest Government Deal With Owners

January 31, 2000

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French truck drivers yesterday set up roadblocks in the first of several planned this week in protest of a deal the government made with trucking companies last month over a shorter work week.

Truck owners set up their own roadblocks three weeks ago, angered at the economic repercussions of France's new 35-hour work week. But the concessions made to the employers made the drivers angry. Most truckers work between 50 and 70 hours a week. The government said the truckers could continue to work longer than the new limit, as long as they are paid overtime. But a deal that let them fix monthly rather than weekly limits on hours has truckers fearing they will end up working long hours in busy weeks for no extra pay. Truck drivers want a better hourly rate, a 50% increase in salary for night work, and a bonus at the end of the year.
Road blocks began going up Sunday night. By Monday morning, there were more than 60 blockades, according to published reports, mostly at border crossings and around major cities. They are expected to remain at least through today, Feb. 1, when the new 35-hour work week takes effect. Many blockades allowed passenger cars to pass but stopped all trucks. Other roadblocks stopped all traffic.
Trucking company owners threatened action if the government agrees to the drivers' demands.

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