French businesses alarmed over strikes

By AAP Newswire

French retailers and hoteliers warned their crucial Christmas season could be spoiled if a strike, which was causing travel chaos for a second day on Friday, drags on for much longer.

The strike, aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned reform of state pensions, led to a drastically reduced service on trains, buses and the Paris Metro.

The transport disruption is expected to continue over this weekend and into early next week.

"I had one client since this morning," said Karine Barbe, 47, an employee in an embroidery shop in central Paris. "If the strike continues, clients are not going to come as there are no trains."

The strikes, coming on the heels of the 'yellow vest' protests that started in November 2018, deal a new blow to retailers, said Francis Palombi, head of the French Federation of small retailers.

Hotels in big cities received numerous cancellations ahead of the strike, Laurent Duc, the head of the French UMIH hotel federation said.

"Its a disaster for retailers and hoteliers. As soon as tourists hear about strikes, they say: 'We are not going to France, it's going to be chaos in Paris'," he said.

He predicted the strikes could cost hotels, on average, 10-15 per cent of their revenue in December. In the eastern city of Lyon hotel cancellation rates were close to 30 per cent, he said.

The GNI trade federation of independent hotels said bookings were down 30-40 per cent in Paris hotels while restaurants saw revenue fall 50 per cent.

The chaos did not dampen the defiant tone of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who on Friday told the public:"You're going to have to work longer."

"We're going to have to give up special pension plans," he said in his first speech since the start of the nationwide strike that could further embolden protesters.

Philippe did offer one olive branch, however, saying the reforms would be progressive so that they don't become "brutal."