Reuters International

A demonstrator carries tyres near striking labour union members who block the ring road as protests continue against the labour reforms law in Nantes, France, June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe


By Brian Love and Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) - With the stench of rotting garbage wafting through parts of Paris and a pilot strike looming, France's government on Thursday slammed workers who persisted with strikes on the eve of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

"Some people just don't give a damn that their country is about to host a big event which creates jobs and huge economic benefits," said Sports Minister Thierry Braillard.

The message fell on deaf ears. The hardline CGT union said it would extend a rubbish collection strike in the capital until June 14 and Air France <AIF.PA> pilots confirmed a four-day walkout from Saturday after pay talks collapsed.

And while main line rail services improved as a nine-day strike over work and rest time ran out of steam, one rail union warned it might disrupt services and make it hard for fans to reach France's opening match against Romania on Friday.

Air France said it would be forced to cancel up to 30 percent of flights during the four-day walkout by two unions, but vowed minimal disruption to travel to cities hosting the Euro championship.

"Of course, we'll look after the Euro tournament," Chief Executive Officer Frederic Gagey told a news conference, adding the labour dispute would cost the airline 5 million euros ($5.66 million) a day.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the labour disputes risked undermining signs of stronger growth and falling unemployment in the euro zone's second biggest economy.


President Francois Hollande says reform is key to tackling a jobless rate that has been stuck near 10 percent since he won power in 2012. Sapin said economic growth was improving and that job creation in the first quarter of this year was better than any quarter since early 2008.

"This is not the moment to throw a spanner into the works, with growth picking up," Sapin said.

As millions of foreign visitors and soccer fans prepared for the month-long tournament, garbage piled up on the streets in parts of Paris and Marseille as restive garbage workers kept waste plants at a standstill.

With just over 24 hours to the opening match of Euro 2016, a train driver representative of the SUD union warned travel to the 80,000-capacity stadium could be thrown into chaos on an urban commuter line known as the RER D. The line usually ferries tens of thousands of fans to the site from inner Paris.

"The Euros are here and let me tell you this, it's going to be hard to take the RER D on Friday," said SUD representative Fabien Villedieu. "They'll find some non-strikers to man trains but it's going to be complicated to get there by train."

It was not clear that his union had enough power to cause a major disruption through a strike, or whether it planned to set up pickets or even occupy the rail tracks.

($1 = 0.8839 euros)

(Additional reporting by Yann Le Guernigou and Jean-Francois Rosnoblet; Editing by Gareth Jones)


 Reuters International