A Corsican ferry at the centre of a spectacular commando-style recapture by French forces was docked at Toulon last night.Most of the 50 or so striking ferry-workers who had originally seized the vessel, were allowed to dissembark.Four are still being held by the authorities.
The action had been a protest at plans to privatise the state owned company SNCM. On leaving, one man said he wasn’t a terrorist, nor was he armed – he and his colleagues were just workers trying to defend their jobs. The dispute over the ownership of the ferry line has stirred up Corsican resentment with the mainland French government and a general strike is being threatend on the island if any of the protesters are criminally charged. Wednesday’s military manoeuvres were an unprecidented intervention in an industrial dispute. Workers had earlier commandeered the ferry saying it and the whole SNCM fleet belonged to the tax payer and should not be sold off at a bargain price to an investment company. Although the incident ended without violence the dispute is continuing.The ports of Bastia and Marseille are still being blocaded. The news that the government says it will retain a symbolic stake of 10 to 15 percent, when the company is privatised, has done nothing to resolve things among workers who fear job losses.