Evening Update Thursday 19th January 2023

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of several Riviera towns and cities this morning as part of a nationwide day of protest against France's proposed pension reforms. Marches were held in Toulon, Draguignan, Cannes - and the biggest was in Nice, on the Place Masséna, where unions claimed as many as 20,000 people were present. Today is the first time in 12 years that all of France’s major unions are united – with the last time being also in response to pension reform. Then, the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. This time, the plans are to raise the age from 62 to 64. The CGT trade union had counted on an exceptional turnout. Police and CRS riot officers were deployed in large numbers to keep an eye on the demonstrations. Public transport remains disrupted throughout the Riviera until tomorrow morning.

Most of the Riviera's coastal roads and paths have reopened today after a big clean-up operation following yesterday's strong sea swell. The crashing waves swept pebbles and other debris onto a number of roads, notably around Nice and Cagnes-sur-Mer. A municipal police officer in Nice was taken to hospital with minor injuries after being struck by a wave on the Quai des Etats-Unis yesterday morning.

In the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, an 18-month-old baby girl appears to have escaped unscathed after falling from a second floor window. The incident happened yesterday afternoon in Manosque. The girl had no apparent injuries but was taken by firefighters to hospital to be checked over. Police are trying to determine the exact circumstances of what happened.

Meanwhile, a 47-year-old man was seriously injured in Aspremont yesterday when his leg became trapped under a falling boulder. It appears the heavy rock slid down a hill and fell on top of him while he was gardening. Eleven firefighters helped free him and paramedics took him to Pasteur hospital in Nice.

About 50 police officers in Toulon carried out a major search operation on the city's small local bars and cafes on Tuesday evening. They swooped on dozens of independent cafes simultaneously to check transactions were being properly recorded and that staff had the right to work in France. Twelve offences were recorded, including failing to display a licence to sell alcohol in the window, or failing to keep necessary administrative documents and staff records.

Meanwhile, police in Toulon say they're seeing a surge in thefts from parked vehicles. Regular surveillance operations are being carried out in the city's well-to-do neighbourhoods, which made it possible for five thieves to be caught red-handed on Tuesday and arrested. A search of one of the suspect's homes found a stash of stolen goods, including a handbag with a woman's identity papers inside.

In other local news, a gang of youths suspected of being behind a series of armed robberies on shops around Fréjus and Saint-Raphael last autumn have been arrested. The four minors are accused of raiding five businesses in the area, including a local bakery, supermarket and tobacconist in September and October last year. Police said DNA left at the crime scenes had helped them identify the suspects. It’s not yet clear when they will face trial.

Power supplier Engie has apologised for accidentally cutting off the gas supply to 160 homes in a block of flats in Golfe-Juan, in the height of winter. Residents on Avenue Clément Massié found they had no gas on Tuesday evening and complained to the syndic management agency. It had no idea why the disconnection had occurred, as the bills had always been paid on time. Gas distributor GRDF managed to restore the supply the following afternoon, after a cold night without heating or hot water. Engie blamed the mishap on a computer problem. When the building switched from a fixed to a variable gas contract in the new year, details of the new contract weren't properly registered in its database.

It might still only be January, but more details are already emerging about some of the new flights that'll operate from Nice Airport this summer season. Spanish airline Volotea has announced it will fly twice a week from Nice to Olbia, on Sardinia. Or if you'd prefer, you can take their twice-weekly flight to the Belgian city of Charleroi. Hungarian low-cost airline Wizzair will add some extra competition to the busy Nice to London route from late March. It's advertising flights to Gatwick from €10, although to benefit from the discount rate you need to be a member of the airline's loyalty club, which costs €30 per year.

And Prince Albert II of Monaco has given his backing to a new global philanthropic alliance that aims to finance solutions for climate change and the environment as a whole. While funding for climate change action and preserving the environment has tripled in five years, from $1 billion to $3 billion per year, this still accounts for less than 2% of all global philanthropic donations. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prince Albert II said he was keen to see that growth accelerate. The new alliance will have the aim of persuading philanthropists to channel their contributions towards collective efforts on climate, the oceans and biodiversity. It's hoped the alliance will be up and running later this year in time for the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

BUSINESS

In a 'first of its kind' ruling for France, ride-hailing platforms including Uber have signed an agreement to establish a minimum income per ride for drivers. Unions and ride-share workers (such as Uber drivers) have been seeking to strengthen protections in the sector for several years, which led to the decision this week to institute a minimum income per trip will be set to €7.65, regardless of the application being used. Ride share organisations also agreed to institute a minimum price for rides – setting it to at least €10.20 for the cheapest ride, which represents a rise of about 27 percent from previous minimum fares. The new minimum ride fares in France will go into effect on February 1st. The agreement follows the ruling by a French court that VTC drivers were employees, not self-employed, and the subsequent selection of a union to represent drivers. Unions say that the minimum pay agreements are a “first step” and that the goal would be to “negotiate about other issues faced by drivers” later this year.

The UK's Royal Mail has restarted the export of parcels from a backlog, and will accept new letters for overseas, as it tries to recover from a cyber-attack. Parcels that have already been processed will start to be moved in "limited volumes" the firm said. But no new parcels should be submitted for now, it said. Royal Mail was the victim of a ransomware attack last week, and it is still working with security authorities "to mitigate the impact". Ransomware is malicious computer software that encrypts data and locks up systems. Criminals usually demand payment for releasing the data. Last week, Royal Mail told customers they would not be able to send letters or parcels overseas until the matter was resolved.

SPORT

Tennis - Aryna Sabalenka has served up her biggest warning yet to her Australian Open rivals. The world No 5 continued her flawless start to the summer to roar into the third round at Melbourne Park with a 6-1, 6-3 trouncing of dangerous American Shelby Rogers. Rogers threatened an upset early when she raced to a 3-1 lead on Rod Laver Arena. But Sabalenka reeled off five straight games to snatch the second set before running away with the match in one hour, 27 minutes.

Britain's Dan Evans raced through to the Australian Open third round, helped by winning a bizarre point that left his opponent Jeremy Chardy fuming. Evans won 6-4 6-4 6-1 but the French veteran was unhappy the umpire did not call let on break point in the first set when a ball fell out of his pocket.

And Casper Ruud was stunned by hard-hitting American Jenson Brooksby to leave the Australian Open draw without its top two men's seeds after two rounds. The Norwegian second seed, last year's French and US Open runner-up, was chasing a first Grand Slam title and the chance to become world number one. But the 24-year-old was outplayed by the world number 39 in a 6-3 7-5 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 defeat in the second round. His exit follows injured top seed Rafael Nadal's loss on Wednesday.

Football - Manchester City has topped a closely watched global revenue ranking for the second year running, with the wider Premier League taking "the lion's share" of the top spots globally for the first time. The 26th edition of the Deloitte Football Money League, which determines the top 20 clubs for revenue during the 2021/22 season, showed Premier League sides taking 11 of the positions - up from 10 the year before. The top 20 raked in a combined £7.8bn over the period, according to the research - a 13% rise on the previous season as matchday spending rebounded following the return of fans to stadia as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The table was led by Manchester City - the Premier League champions at the end of the 2021/22 season - with £619.1m in total revenue followed by Real Madrid on £604.5m. The top three was completed by Liverpool, the biggest upwards mover on £594.3m - with Manchester United achieving £583.2m and Paris Saint-Germain £554m.

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