French strikes hurting business: industry groups

PARIS (BestGrowthStock) – Nationwide strikes against pension reform are taking a toll on the French economy, business leaders said on Tuesday, with the worst impact felt among small business still smarting from the global financial crisis.

Strikes hit key sectors such as fuel distribution, air, rail and road transport on Tuesday, the sixth day of protests over pension reforms since June, adding to problems caused by a longer strike at France’s largest oil terminal.

Angry motorists lined up outside petrol stations to buy marked-up gas and diesel, while work stoppages among train and truck drivers started to hit deliveries of goods to industry.

“I am sending out a distress signal because we do not have the means today, after the economic crisis that we have endured over the past three years, to withstand strikes that last for a long time,” Jean-Francois Roubaud, head of a group representing small and mid-sized business, told French radio.

“It needs to end very quickly,” he added.

France, like most of the industrialized world, plunged into the deepest recession since World War Two in 2008-2009 on the heels of a financial crisis that snowballed out of the United States in 2007.

While its downturn was less severe than in many countries including neighboring Germany, the business community is worried that the strikes could inflict further damage.

“We are worried, worried also for our business,” Laurence Parisot, head of France’s top industrial group MEDEF told a news conference.

Certain members of her business lobby’s executive committee had noted disruptions in sectors such as construction, infrastructure and chemicals, she said.

Three weeks of crippling strikes in late 1995 cost the economy the equivalent of $4 billion in lost productivity, according to an estimate near the time from an employers’ group, and shaved percentage points off gross domestic product.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Brian Love)

French strikes hurting business: industry groups