Evening Update Tuesday 28th March 2023

A 10th day of nationwide strike action against France's pension reforms is taking place today, with police estimating between 650,000 and 900,000 people taking to the streets nationwide. 13,000 police and gendarmes have been mobilised to keep an eye on the demonstrations, including more than 5,000 in Paris alone. More than 200 protests were held in towns and cities around France, including in Marseille, Toulon, Draguignan, Brignoles, Le Cannet and Nice, where demonstrators gathered outside Nice-Ville railway station and marched through the city centre to the port. Unions claimed 25,000 people took part in the march through Nice, while police put the figure at closer to 4,000. In Toulon, unions claimed 15,000 protestors while police put their estimate at 6,500.

While rubbish continues to pile up in the streets of Paris, waste collectors in Marseille have called off their strike after eight days and are gradually returning to work. However, the backlog of rubbish that needs collecting will take several days to clear.

Some tourism professionals on the Riviera have voiced concern that the ongoing strikes will put holidaymakers off from visiting France as the summer season approaches. The Bouches-du-Rhône branch of the Union of Hospitality Industries, which represents restaurants and hotels, says some hotel owners are seeing growing numbers of cancellations. It says uncertainty about the future situation in France is harming the hospitality industry, as it desperately needs a good summer to bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus shutdowns.

In related news, the Alpes-Maritimes has extended its ban on the sale of petrol in jerrycans. The measure now runs until at least next Monday. The limit of 30 litres per person also remains. Nationwide, about 15% of petrol stations have run out of at least one type of fuel. Meanwhile, municipal police arrested a man in Vallauris after they caught him syphoning fuel from several parked cars on the Route de Grasse. Officers found him with about a dozen 20-litre jerrycans. He said he planned to sell the fuel so that he could afford to renew his passport to visit family in Moldova. He'll appear in court in June.

A 29-year-old motorcyclist has died after losing control of his bike on a winding mountain road in the Esterel. Two passing drivers braked suddenly after seeing the man fall from his bike - but investigators believe their vehicles weren't involved in the accident. It happened near the Col du Testanier, in the hills above Fréjus, on Sunday afternoon.

A 70-year-old man was injured and a family of four have had their apartment severely damaged after a fire broke out at a laundrette in the centre of Nice in the early hours of this morning. 30 firefighters were called out to Rue Trachel, near Nice-Ville railway station, at 4.30 this morning. The fire, which spread to a nearby parked car, was put out by about 6am.
Two adults and two children living immediately above the laundrette will have to be rehoused. A neighbouring building was also evacuated as a precaution.

Meanwhile 60 firefighters were called out to a fire at a warehouse in Grimaud at around 1am this morning. The building is two-thirds destroyed, but firefighters managed to keep the fire under control before it could spread to neighbouring buildings. About a hectare of vegetation was destroyed in the fire.

Police have launched an appeal for witnesses after a 77-year-old man went missing from his retirement home in the Var. Michel Grégoire left the Sainte-Anne residence in Le Val, near Brignoles, on Friday afternoon, leaving his mobile phone behind, and hasn't been seen since. Gendarmes, sniffer dogs, drones and even members of the local hunting group have joined the search operation.

Elsewhere on the Riviera, a hiker has alerted gendarmes after finding a shoe and several bones near a forest trail in the hills near Tende. Forensics experts were called out to the scene and the Nice public prosecutor's office hopes to be able to extract DNA from the remains to help identify them.

A controversial travelling circus, criticised by animal rights campaigners for its poor conditions, has finished its run in Menton and has now set up in Levens for the next fortnight. The Zavatta circus had been due to stop off in Beausoleil, but it had to abandon those plans because its trucks and trailers could not fit the town's narrow streets. The Alpes-Maritimes préfecture intervened and asked other municipalities to come forward with a solution. After a long weekend of negotiations, the mayor of Levens - who initially opposed the idea - agreed to give permission for the circus to use a large field in the municipality. The Menton leg of the Zavatta circus tour last week saw protests from animal rights activists.

Police have arrested a man for pretending to be a security guard at Antibes railway station. The man wore a stolen jacket with "security" written on it and had been carrying out spot checks on passengers for two days before anyone noticed his unusual behaviour. He's since been transferred to a detention centre in Nice. He'd previously been handed an order to leave French territory.

A prestigious school for hotel and catering professions is planning to open a campus in Nice, with the first students expected in September 2024. Ferrandi, which was set up in Paris more than 100 years ago, has branches in Bordeaux, Rennes and Dijon - and is close to deciding where its premises should be on the Riviera. It's keen to find a location near the airport and future TGV hub at Saint-Augustin, possibly on the Promenade des Anglais itself. Another hotel and catering school is due to open in nearby Saint-Laurent-du-Var, run by the Paris-based group Vatel, with room for 700 students.

Meanwhile, with the peak season fast approaching, the Riviera is hosting several jobs fairs in the coming days for anyone looking for seasonal work. Employment office Pôle Emploi published more than 6,000 new job offers in the Alpes-Maritimes in the past week - so now is clearly the time to dust off your CV. Tomorrow, there's a summer jobs forum at the Casino Terrazur in Cagnes-sur-Mer, with more than 800 positions needing to be filled. Saint-Raphaël in the Var is also hosting a forum for seasonal and student jobs at the Palais des Congrès tomorrow afternoon. And on 1 April, about 1,000 summer jobs will be on offer at a fair in the Gare Maritime in Cannes, aimed particularly at young jobseekers.

BUSINESS

British gambling company William Hill has been hit by a record £19.2m fine by the UK gambling regulator. Three gambling businesses owned by the company will pay the sum for "widespread and alarming" social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures, the Gambling Commission said. Latest figures show parent company 888 reported £1.85bn in revenue for the year up to the end of December 2022. It's not the first time the company has faced fines. In 2018 a £6.2m fine was issued by the regulator for similar issues: systemic social responsibility and money laundering failures. Failures identified by the regulator in the latest fine included allowing a customer to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes, all without any checks. Another social responsibility failure identified was failing to conduct any checks and allowing a different customer to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24 hours.

Governments and institutions around the world have been banning TikTok from officials' phones and devices, over the past few months. The Netherlands and Norway have joined the list of countries banning the video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, from government-issued devices. And despite TikTok's insistence it is independently run and shares no users' data with the Chinese government, France has become the latest country to restrict officials' access to it. But at the same time, it has also become the first country to do the same for all "recreational" apps - including Netflix, Instagram and Twitter. France's civil service minister said recreational apps do not deliver sufficient levels of cyber-security and data protection to be used on officials' phones.

SPORT

Tennis - Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina is through to the Miami Open quarter-finals after beating Elise Mertens in straight sets. The Kazakh 10th seed defeated her Belgian opponent 6-4 6-3. Rybakina is now unbeaten in 11 matches, while victory in Miami would see her achieve the rare 'Sunshine Double' following her title win at Indian Wells earlier in March. Elsewhere, Belarus' world number two Aryna Sabalenka and world number three Jessica Pegula of the United States both progressed.

Olympics - A United Nations expert advising the International Olympic Committee has provoked outrage by claiming that Russian soldiers who have fought in Ukraine should be allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 Games – as long as they have not committed war crimes. Alexandra Xanthaki, the UN special rapporteur for cultural rights, angered Ukrainian athletes on an IOC‑hosted call by saying that only Russians implicated directly in crimes against humanity or propaganda for war should be barred from international sport.

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