French lorry driver 'anger' strike confirmed

Among the grievances from lorry drivers is the idea that foreign transporters are being asked to pay nothing towards improving infrastructure

French drivers of heavy goods vehicles have announced a strike day on December 7 to express their “legitimate anger with the profession”.

European road transporters group L’Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Européens (OTRE) confirmed this week that businesses in the industry were planning to “express their legitimate anger with the profession in the streets, from Saturday December 7 and in the days after”.

The strike is set to come two days after national action within the transport industry, set for December 5, and is likely to cause disruption on main roads and motorways.

Blockades of lorries were held this week at the Belgian border, after two transport organisations called for a protest against a rise of two centimes on the price of fuel.

Sébastien Rivera, general secretary of the departmental union FNTR, said: “There is really a feeling of being fed up with road transport bosses and companies. We are financially fed up, in fact, because these two centimes mean a red line has been crossed; the drop of water that causes the vase to overflow.”

The rise comes five months after French then-transport minister Elisabeth Borne announced a drop of two centimes per litre in the amount that road transport workers were entitled to claim back in taxes on petrol, known as la taxe intérieure de consommation sur les produits énergétiques (TICPE).

The measure - which was approved by the Assemblée Nationale on October 17, but blocked by the Senate on first reading this week -  is  intended to raise 140 million over a year, with the money set to go to improve transport infrastructure.

 

“Undefended and unheard”

But now, the OTRE group has announced the national strike action.

A press release read: “Tired of feeling undefended and unheard, companies in the transport industry will express their legitimate anger with the profession in the streets.

“The fallacious arguments and contempt from the government towards the profession overwhelmed any dialogue between industry representatives and counter-proposals made on infrastructure funding. They favour foreign transporters to the detriment of French companies and jobs.”

But Ms Borne - now ecology minister - said to the Agence France-Presse: “We are working very hard to not put transport companies in difficulty; that is obviously not the goal. We have had a great many discussions.

“Really, we have been sure to give them all the guarantees, on all the other issues that they had brought to our attention. The idea is not that these two centimes weigh heavily on road transport businesses. There is everything they need in the current law to allow them to pass on [this cost] to their clients.”

Ms Borne added that “we are significantly increasing funds that go towards the maintenance and upkeep of our roads, and everyone can see the logic in the idea that they [road transporters] help contribute to the maintenance of the roads.”

But OTRE said: “The sector already contributes significantly to the financing of infrastructure (more than seven billion per year), and it is not only French transporters that use the French road network, but also the huge influx of foreign transporters.”

The group is calling on the government to “modify its position and take into account the innovative idea of eco-contribution, brought by the profession (the OTRE, FNTR and TLF). This alternative offers clarity and simplicity. It will lead to more sustainable revenue, and many MPs have already stated their interest.”

The group said that their proposals were in line with Mr Borne’s goals as ecology minister, who has always said that she “wants to tax foreign lorries, which simply go through France, without paying a single contribution to infrastructure”.

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