French miners in riot over deficient pay bonus

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The Independent Online
HUNDREDS OF French miners, demonstrating against a pay freeze set fire to police cars and government offices in the eastern French region of Lorraine yesterday.

In Forbach, a mob of 400 miners broke through a cordon of riot police and ransacked a tax office, pulling furniture into the street and setting it alight. The blaze spread to the ground floor of the building, which had to be evacuated. Extra riot police were called in to push back the demonstrators using batons and tear-gas grenades, while firemen doused the flames. Two miners and a fireman were injured.

Earlier, in Metz, another group of miners set fire to three police cars and smashed the ground-floor windows of another tax office. They dragged furniture and files into the street and chopped them up with axes.

By early afternoon, the CRS riot police - who seemed at first to have underestimated the scale of the protests - had gathered enough reinforcements to push the miners away from public buildings.

The protesters showered the police with stones and other missiles.

Four mining unions had called the demonstration to protest against an "inadequate" end of year bonus of 500 francs (pounds 50) and the announcement last week by the umbrella organisation of the state-owned coal industry, Charbonnages de France, that pay would be frozen next year.

Several trade-union envoys met industry ministry officials but reached no deal on their campaign against the pay freeze and the small pay rise decided for next year.

Lorraine is a depressed steel-making and coal-mining region of France, near the border with Germany..