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French govt to force Paris binmen back to work as trash stacks up

Over 7,000 tonnes of rubbish are estimated to be heaped in Paris' streets
Over 7,000 tonnes of rubbish are estimated to be heaped in Paris' streets - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
Over 7,000 tonnes of rubbish are estimated to be heaped in Paris' streets - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
Pierrick YVON

France’s government will force Paris rubbish collectors to return to work after a days-long strike against pension reforms has left many streets in the capital piled with stinking waste.

Police chief Laurent Nunez late Wednesday informed mayor Anne Hidalgo — who sides with the workers — that the government would use its power to “requisition” striking trash collectors, forcing them back to work under threat of prosecution.

Around 7,600 tonnes of rubbish were piled on the streets of Paris by Wednesday, according to city hall figures.

Government backers and the French right have hammered Hidalgo and the strikers with fears they are endangering public health and disappointing the capital’s swarms of tourists.

Workers walked off the job in protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the pension system, with headline measures of raising the legal retirement age to 64 and increasing the number of years people must pay in to receive a full pension.

“The demand of Paris rubbish collectors, who don’t want to work for two years longer… is fair,” Hidalgo said.

“The only answer that could calm the current climate is social dialogue, rather than a test of strength,” she added.

Private waste collection company Derichebourg said Wednesday that it would stop filling in for city binmen after it was threatened with pickets on its depots.

MPs are set to vote in a knife-edge ballot on the draft law on Thursday, with Macron’s camp still unsure they can get it over the line.

Rubbish collectors have run one of the few rolling strikes against the changes, where other sectors have held successive one-day walkouts accompanying mass demonstrations.

The hard-left CGT trade union federation claimed 1.7 million people hit the streets nationwide on Wednesday, while the interior ministry’s count was 480,000.

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