France vows to punish striking workers who cut power to thousands in Paris

Protestors carry a poster depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in Lille, northern France.
Protestors carry a poster depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in Lille, northern France. Copyright AP Photo/Michel SpinglerMichel Spingler
By Alice Tidey
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Striking energy workers who deprived up to 35,000 people of power could face up to two years in jail.

France has vowed to punish striking workers who cut power supplies to tens of thousands of homes and businesses people in a wildcat protest over pension reform.


Between 30,000 and 35,000 customers in the Paris metropolitan area are believed to have been affected by the outage on Tuesday morning after striking energy workers illegally entered a facility and switched off supplies.

Paris Orly airport and France's biggest fresh produce market, Rungis, were also briefly impacted before back-up generators kicked in.

The CGT-Energie union, representing workers in the energy sector, said it was behind the action.

Franck Jouanno, a local representative of the union, told French media that it had cut power to "have an impact on the economy and above all make ourselves heard."

"We've only been hearing in the media about the actions of the [Paris public transport system] RATP and the [state-owned railway company] SCNF.

"It's not the end of the world to have a power cut, it usually doesn't last longer than a morning," he argued.

But the government branded the power cut "irresponsible" and warned of consequences.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told parliament that the action "unnecessarily put our fellow citizens, users of the public services in a situation which is sometimes perilous and it is not acceptable."

Such actions revealed a lack of understanding of "democracy or the law" and should be "punished".

Housing Minister Julien Denormandie labelled the power cut "scandalous and irresponsible" and said it had "put people at risk".

It's not the first time striking workers have cut off power supplies beginning of the movement against Macron's pension reforms began in early December.


Similar actions were also conducted in Gironde, Perigueux and Marmande, depriving a combined 140,000 households of power.

Earlier this week, CGT-Energie also cut power to the headquarters of the rival CFDT union after its leaders called on members to return to work following concessions from the government.

RTE, the country's electricity transmission system operator, filed a formal complaint with the authorities for each power cut on its network since the beginning of the strike. Energy company Enedis is thought to have done the same.

Workers found guilty could be sentenced to up to two years in jail and fined up to €30,000.

The six-week strike primarily impacted transport, especially during the holiday season, when just a third of high-speed trains and cross-country services were running. Ports airports and oil refineries were also disrupted.

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