Evening Update Thursday 5 December

Disruption has been experienced throughout France as millions of workers go on strike in protest at being forced to retire later or face reduced pensions. According to revised figures from the police and local prefectures, as of midday today more than 450,000 people were demonstrating in fifty towns and cities across France. Demonstrators gathered on the Place Massena in Nice this morning. Protest leaders put the number of people there at more than 10,000 but police said the number was 4,500. Protestors also gathered at the prefecture in Draguignan.  About 25,000 people demonstrated in Marseille, according to official estimates. Protests were held in Paris this afternoon, with numbers being put at 250,000 by unions. 41 people had been taken into custody in Paris as of mid-afternoon.

Amongst the many professions on strike today, according to the government, about 51% of primary school staff and 42% of secondary school staff are on strike today. Unions say the figure is 70%. According to unions, seven of the eight oil refineries in France have been on strike, a situation they say is unprecedented. Locally, "Yellow Vest" protestors have blocked the entrance to the petrol depot at Puget-sur-Argens in the Var. A local resident, apparently angered by the protests, fired shots from a hunting rifle into the air near the demonstration this morning. Gendarmes dispersed the protestors after they held a meeting about their grievances with the sub-prefect of Draguignan. Border police at Nice Cote d’Azur airport and at the border with Italy in Menton have been carrying out additional checks on travelers resulting in longer waiting times. Nice Cote d’Azur airport say that about 20 per cent of arrivals and departures have been cancelled today.

The industrial action is expected to last beyond Thursday and some trade union leaders have warned they will continue to strike until President Macron abandons his campaign promise to overhaul the retirement system. The secretary general of the CGT, Philippe Martinez, said earlier today that the strike will be "renewable for a number of sectors, that's for sure." Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne said earlier today that the government doesn’t think there will be a significant improvement in public transport on Friday. The SNCF has cancelled 90% of TGV and 70% of TER trains tomorrow. Locally it’s expected that tomorrow’s train services will operate on a similar schedule to today, with just a handful of trains operating during the morning and evening rush hours only. Air France has announced this afternoon that 30 per cent of its flights will not operate tomorrow.

More details of train services can be found at www.sncf.com and bus services at https://www.lignesdazur.com Details of arrivals and departures at Nice Cote d'Azur Airport can be found at www.nice.aeroport.fr

Authorities cordoned off an area near the port of Nice this afternoon because of a major gas leak. A gas pipe was apparently ruptured on a construction site on the corner of rue Arson and rue Fodéré.

A car caught fire on the A8 motorway westbound at exit 36 Le Muy in the Var. The incident happened shortly after 9.30 this morning causing long delays for motorists in the area. The cause of the incident has not yet been determined.  There were also severe jams on the Voie Mathis in Nice early this afternoon after an accident involving several vehicles.

Authorities in the region have alerted members of the public to a current telephone scam. Several residents in the Valbonne area have reported receiving calls from people posing as employees of the local tax office asking for payments. A second scam involves an SMS message associated with the government website for parking tickets informing you to urgently pay an overdue fine. Authorities have confirmed that this is a scam and anyone receiving the calls should report them to police.

Customs officers have made an unusual seizure at the La Turbie toll booths on the A8. They confiscated 520 specimens of a protected plant species. Two people from Tunisia were taking the plants to Italy where they are sometimes used in the making of wreaths. An on the spot fine was issued.



Chinese telecoms company Huawei has launched a legal challenge to a decision by US regulators to classify it as a national security threat. It comes after the FCC put curbs on rural mobile providers using a government fund to buy Huawei equipment. The firm said evidence that it was a threat to security "does not exist".

The 19 countries in the Eurozone registered GDP growth of 0.2% in the third quarter, according to official data. Growth was unchanged from the second quarter. The French economy grew by 0.3%, beating Germany and Italy which both grew by 0.1%.

Jewellery company Tiffany, which is being acquired by LVMH, has announced a fall in profits of 17% for the three months to October. Revenue was virtually unchanged at $1bn.

Shares in UK fund management group M&G were one of the biggest fallers in London earlier today after the company announced that it was suspending withdrawals from a property fund. M&G blamed Brexit related political uncertainty and problems in the retail sector.



Cricket… Sri Lanka have appointed South African Mickey Arthur as their new head coach on a two-year contract. He’s previously coached Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. Arthur had been in charge of Pakistan for three years but they decided not to renew his contract in August.

Golf…. Players at the Australian Open have complained of stinging eyes as toxic smoke from bushfires around Sydney affected the opening round earlier today. New Zealand golfer Ryan Chisnall, who is asthmatic, had to wear a face mask. The tournament is taking place at the Australian Golf Club, about five miles south of the centre of the city.

Motorsports… Formula 1 has relaxed restrictions on engine usage for 2020 meaning drivers could suffer fewer grid penalties. The change to the rules affects a part of F1's complex, high-tech turbo-hybrid power-units. The change was confirmed in the 2020 rules, which have been officially published after a meeting of the FIA World Council.

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