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Charities condemn Roma bus complaint

Drivers in Montpellier want to stop serving a Roma camp because they cannot cope with the smell

A BUS drivers' union in Montpellier has been accused of "pure discrimination" after it called for a separate bus service to be created for Roma people because drivers could no longer bear their smell.

The Force Ouvrière union at the city's public transport operator, TaM, has complained to management about the "unbearable" working conditions that drivers face on line 9, which links the city centre with a vast Roma camp on the outskirts.

Union reps described the smell from passengers as a health risk and called on TaM to alter the route to avoid the camp and create a separate shuttle service specifically for Roma, which could be outsourced to another operator.

One driver said: "Some drivers refuse to handle the coins that Roma passengers hand over to pay their fare." He said the problem had existed for two to three years.

He said a proposal was being looked at for line 9 to stop serving the Roma camp or to sub-contract that part of the route to another firm.

Roma support groups have condemned the idea. The head of ATD Quart-Monde in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Marie-Françoise Combaz, told 20 Minutes: "A special bus just for Roma people would be pure discrimination. Of course there are problems - but it would be better to install running water and showers at the Roma camp than to concentrate on the lack of hygiene."

Other trade unions representing TaM bus drivers have also criticised the Force Ouvrière stance. A CGT union rep said: "We should be fighting against poverty, not against poor people."

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