Evening Update Thursday 12th October 2023

At least 200 demonstrations are planned across France tomorrow in the latest day of pan-industry strike action. Eight of the country's biggest trade unions are jointly calling on members to join the protests. They're calling for increased purchasing power, a rise in salaries and pensions. On public transport, the three main trade unions representing SNCF workers have called on members to go on strike and join demonstrations this Friday to demand wage increases and improved working conditions. Revised timetables should be available shortly on the TER PACA website. You can also check real-time train information at garesetconnexions.sncf. Services will also be disrupted on the Lignes d'Azur tram and bus network around Nice, and other bus operators throughout the Riviera. Due to a strike by air traffic controllers, airlines have been asked to cancel 40% of their flights to and from Paris Orly airport and 20% from Marseille Provence. If you're planning on flying on Friday, check with your airline before you head out. The two main unions representing nursery and primary school teachers intend to join the strike action. Teachers must have informed their school, and parents, 48 hours before going on strike. This obligation doesn't apply to secondary education. GPs, other healthcare professionals and public services including town halls and post offices will also be affected by tomorrow's strike.

A nightclub in the Var outside which a soldier was brutally beaten to death this summer has been ordered to shut down for four months. The QG club in Solliès-Pont will have to stay shut until at least the beginning of next year. The investigation is ongoing into the death of a 27-year-old soldier from head injuries as he was leaving the club on 27th August. A security guard at the club has been charged with manslaughter and placed in pre-trial detention. Seven other people also face charges, including obstructing a rescue effort and failing to provide assistance to a person in danger. Paramedics were not immediately alerted after the attack, and the victim was reportedly hidden between two parked cars. He died from his injuries in hospital a few days later.

France's national police force has begun a recruitment drive on the Riviera to hire 83 new junior police officers for the Alpes-Maritimes. Half of the new recruits will carry out general public security missions, and the other half will be border police. The new police officers will be recruited on a three-year renewable contract. Applicants must be between 18 and 30, have French nationality and pass a medical. 

A spot check on vehicles using the Grasse pénetrante on Tuesday resulted in more than 20 drivers being fined in the space of just a few hours. Police and gendarmes were out in force pulling over drivers on the expressway between Mougins and Mouans-Sartoux. 13 fines were issued for using a mobile phone while driving and eight for speeding, with one driver having his licence taken away for doing 155 kilometres per hour instead of the allowed 90. Two people face charges for carrying weapons, one for driving without a licence and with fake ID papers, and another for being over the drink-drive limit.

Draguignan has voted in favour of imposing a new tax on the landlords of vacant shops in the town centre. The city says about 10% of retail units are currently empty. It says some shop owners are trying to charge rents that are too high. The new tax would increase gradually over three years if nothing is done to find a tenant. Shop owners can request an exemption if they can show a good reason why it's vacant - for example, if they're carrying out renovation works.

Residents in Menton have begun a campaign to try to stop a former holiday park being turned into a migrant reception centre for unaccompanied minors. The resort, in the Annonciade district, was previously a holiday venue reserved as a perk for employees of the energy firm EDF. Locals say they haven't been consulted and are planning a demonstration against the project outside the premises on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile it's been announced that a new administrative detention centre will be built in Nice by 2027. The facility is designed for migrants whose asylum requests are turned down, who have been issued with an order to leave French territory and who are considered to pose a threat to public safety. They can be kept there for a legal maximum of 90 days before being deported. The exact location of the new detention centre in Nice is not yet known. It's expected to have a capacity of 140. Currently, Nice only has room for 40 detainees at the Auvare police barracks.

After months of roadworks, the new-look Boulevard Gambetta in Nice has been inaugurated. The busy avenue has been thoroughly redesigned, with less space for cars and more for cyclists and pedestrians. The only motor vehicles allowed along the stretch from the railway line to the seafront are local residents' vehicles, buses, taxis, delivery and emergency vehicles.

One of Toulon's last remaining newspaper kiosks has launched a fundraising campaign to stay open. The Kiano Presse newsstand was closed for a decade before it was taken over late last year. But with soaring overheads, and despite diversifying to sell tourist souvenirs as well as papers and magazines, the new owner says she's struggling to keep the business afloat. She says newspaper kiosks are an important social point of contact for many elderly and lonely city residents. She's seeking to raise €2,000 from regular customers and passers-by.

The Riviera's ski resorts are taking stock of last winter's results - and have announced when they plan to open for this coming winter season. Ski resort operators from around France are meeting in Toulon this week for their annual conference. Overall attendance at French ski resorts last winter was down about 5%, due to a mix of an unfavourable school calendar, the cost-of-living crisis and a lack of snow. Weather permitting, La Colmiane and Isola 2000 aim to open on 2nd December this year, Auron on 9th December and Valberg, Saint-Dalmas and Gréolières on 16th December.

BUSINESS

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has expanded its ongoing strike by shutting down Ford's biggest plant. The UAW said 8,700 workers walked out of the truck plant in Kentucky, in response to Ford refusing to move further in contract bargaining. It is a sharp escalation of its strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which began last month. The UAW is pressuring the carmakers to grant higher pay and make other improvements in new labour agreements. It is the first in the union's 88-year history to target the Detroit Three automakers at the same time.

The World Bank, the international anti-poverty institution, has warned that recent cuts to the UK foreign aid budget "caused real pain". The Bank added it wanted the UK "back at higher levels" of funding. The UK government was until recently the biggest single donor to the Bank's fund for the poorest countries in the world. Since 2020 ministers have cut back on aid, temporarily, until Britain's public finances are back in shape. The UK has halved its funding to the World Bank's International Development Association fund to £500m a year.

Next is about to confirm its status as Britain's most prolific buyer of rival high street fashion chains by snapping up FatFace in a deal worth more than £100m. The FTSE-100 clothing giant is putting the finishing touches to an acquisition of FatFace, just three years after it was taken over by its lenders. The deal could be announced later this week. FatFace is a family-focused clothing retailer which trades from around 180 UK stores.

SPORT

Olympic gold medallist Mary Lou Retton is "fighting for her life" in an intensive care unit, her daughter Mckenna Kelley has announced. Retton, 55, has been diagnosed with a "very rare form of pneumonia" and is "not able to breathe on her own". She became the first American woman to win the all-around gold at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Making the announcement on crowdfunding site Spotfund, Kelley revealed Retton does not have health insurance.

Rugby Union - Head coach Andy Farrell says Ireland have learned how to become comfortable with being the world's number one side as they prepare to face New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals. The Irish reclaimed top spot with last year's series win over the All Blacks. New Zealand have spent the most time atop the rankings, but many people consider Ireland marginal favourites for Saturday's knockout match in Paris. Farrell named his team on Wednesday for this weekend's match. Ireland have shown no signs of struggling with the number one tag over the last 15 months. They have won 17 Tests in a row, bagged a Six Nations Grand Slam and claimed a statement win over world champions South Africa earlier in this tournament.

Cricket - Captain Rohit Sharma's scintillating century sprinted India to an eight-wicket World Cup win against Afghanistan in Delhi. Rohit achieved 131 from 84 balls before India reached their target of 273 with 15 overs to spare. Afghanistan ended on 272-8. It is a second defeat in two games for Afghanistan, while India have two wins. The hosts join New Zealand and Pakistan in having a perfect record after two games and now play their fierce rivals Pakistan in the most anticipated match of the tournament on Saturday. Afghanistan stay in Delhi to meet defending champions England on Sunday.

Football - The Football Association is unlikely to light the Wembley arch in the colours of the Israel flag because of fears of a backlash from some communities. The UK government has written a letter encouraging governing bodies in sport to "appropriately" mark the attacks in Israel this week with shows of support for the victims. The government has not specifically asked the FA to light the Wembley arch. Rather than lighting the arch, a message of peace and unity will be conveyed before England face Australia in a friendly on Friday. The FA has been in touch with Football Australia to confirm there will be some form of acknowledgement for the victims before kick-off. Last year the FA lit the arch in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukraine flag in solidarity with the country after it was invaded by Russia.

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