Juppe firm as strike deepens



As post and telecommunications staff threatened to join the week-old national transport strike, and tax and bank workers said they would come out today, the French government broke its silence yesterday to insist that it intended to stand firm, despite the growing difficulties facing private-sector employees and business.

In the first of what he said would be daily briefings, spokesman Alain Lamassoure said the government was 'calm, determined and always open to dialogue' and would 'explain, explain and explain again', but would not backtrack on the social security reforms at the root of the current protests.

Mr Lamassoure, who was appointed in the recent cabinet reshuffle, was speaking as gas and electricity workers marched through nearby streets to add their voice to the general protest against possible changes in their pension arrangements.

The demonstrators, numbering several thousand, had originally planned to protest against deregulation requirements set by the European Union, but decided to join the two issues. Later in the day, students held a separate demonstration, to drive home their protest against overcrowding, poor facilities and lack of money in the universities.

Meanwhile, the franc was affected by the unrest for the first time, falling slightly against the German mark.

In calling a press conference yesterday, at only 90 minutes' notice, Mr Lamassoure was making the first official statement of Alain Juppe's government since the beginning of the current crisis. Aside from the government's "firmness", Mr Lamassoure offered several other messages, all apparently intended to reassure unions and public sector workers about the government's plans.

He said there was no intention to alter the "special pension arrangements" of individual groups of public sector employees, insisting that the government's only concern was "fairness" - that equal contributions should bring workers equal pension rights.

In less conciliatory terms, however, he accused striking unions of "sabotaging" the "battle against unemployment, which is this government's first priority". Disturbingly for the international markets, he thus reverted to President Chirac's original priority (jobs), rather than his new "absolute priority" of cutting the budget deficit. This might have had something to do with the fact that official figures published yesterday showed that unemployment rose by 0.3 per cent in October, the third consecutive monthly rise.

Despite Mr Lamassoure's concern to scotch rumours and stress the government's readiness to talk, there was no sign yesterday that the striking workers would be amenable to persuasion. Union leaders, who are divided on what to do next - and have been strangely quiet all this week - seem to have lost all ability to direct the strike, which has taken on its own momentum.

Frustration, meanwhile, is building up on all sides. Three policemen were injured when striking workers tried to storm the town hall in of Nantes and there were scuffles in Paris when gas and electricity workers tried to approach the National Assembly building. Shopkeepers are complaining of lost business. One survey suggested trade in city centre shops was 40 per cent down since the start of the strike

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam