French and Riviera News Tuesday 14th January 2020

Local

Strike - Commuters are facing another day of disruption today as unions ramp up transport strikes across the Riviera. In Nice no trams will be running and the Ligne d’Azur bus services across the region will be severely disrupted.  In Antibes, Envibus say there will be no bus service whatsoever. On the trains, Monday saw a much-improved service however today there are expected to be more disruptions. Commuters are asked to check their SNCF app for the latest information on their journey.

Today marks the 41st day of strikes protesting changes to pension rules. A government offer to remove the most controversial part of the plan, raising the retirement age to 64, has been rubbished by the leading CGT union who called it a ‘smoke-screen’.

Panic buying - Service stations in the Alpes Maritimes have gradually returned to normal after many motorists rushed to fill up their vehicles at the weekend. Monday saw the situation gradually return to normal after motorists went into panic mode over the weekend following the announcement that strike action would hit the refineries. While one refinery remains closed in the Loire Atlantique blocked by protesters demonstrating against the pension reform seven other refineries are operating as normal. 

Unesco – It’s been announced that this year the French government has decided to enter Nice as its candidate for the Unesco World Hertitage listing. Nice, the tourism capital of the Riviera will be presented to Unesco, with a view to inscription on the World Hertiage list. Reacting to the news the mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi, who has just announced his candidacy for the local elections in March, expressed his “gratitude” to the President of the Republic.

Ferry company blocks ships - Employees of the ferry line "La Méridionale" have blocked their own ferries and those of Corsica Linea ferries from Marseille in the port of Ajaccio in Corsica. The move comes in protest from unions who are demanding an agreement between the two companies concerning the crossings to ports in Corsica. 

One spokesperson has said that since Friday, "five boats have been stranded in the port of Marseille. On Monday late afternoon, access to the port of Ajaccio was also blocked by strikers which meant that ferries were forced to divert to the port of Propriano. Due to the movement there are also disruptions on the crossing from Marseille to Tunisia Saturday saw 2,000 passengers stranded in Marseille.

Tramway service - Passengers using line two of the tramway in Nice, which was inaugurated in several different phases last year, have complained of the regular interruptions on the service between Magnan and Jean-Médecin. In response the network has said there are no "major problems" to report.

The service when it is working normally has changed the life for many people in Nice making it possible to travel from the Port to the airport and vice versa in just 30 minutes.

“Extended Monaco” - As part of the ambitious digital transition programme “Extended Monaco” the Monegasque administration services have expanded its e-services and simplified the reporting procedures for employers in the Principality.

In a move to improve the relationship with employers, employees and job seekers in the Principality since mid-December, six new teleservices have been launched for Monegasque employers in order to facilitate their administrative procedures. Other teleservices for job seekers are under development.

The objectives is to facilitate the process: no need to print, send or file paper files; improve the visibility of the processing of requests through notifications and online monitoring of requests; reduce the time taken for agents to process requests; reduce paper use and travel.

Crime rate figures - According to figures announced on Monday 2019 has seen a steady fall in the crime rate in the Principality. Between 2016 and 2019 general delinquency fell by 16% and delinquency on public roads by 52%. It was during the “New Year greeting” to the staff of Monaco’s public security and in the presence of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II Monaco as well as other officials that the figures were revealed as well as major projects for 2020, including the creation of a drone interception unit.

Property - Cannes, Nice and Antibes are among the Top 10 most expensive cities in France to buy property. A new survey by SeLoger shows prices in the cities vary between four and five thousand euro per square metre. Topping the list of provincial cities was Lyon at 5,000 a square metre but nobody can touch Paris at over 10,000.

National

Investigation into police violence during demonstration - An investigation has been opened into “the willful violence with a weapon by a person in public authority” after a demonstrator was hit with a baton by a CRS during demonstrations against the pension reform on January 9th. The video shared on social networks sees the victim pick up his mobile phone before being repeatedly struck by a police officer.

Teacher’s budget given 500 million euros boost – France’s minister of Education has announced that the French government is to inject 500 million euros into teacher’s salaries by 2021. Education minister Jean Michel Blanquer made the announcement on Monday to unions. Blanquer said “that the move was to avoid teachers being penalized by the pension reform” adding “that it was not just a question of compensating for the losses linked to the pension reform but also a step forward in upgrading teachers’ salaries.”

Paris mayor - Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo has said that affordable housing, environmental friendliness and solidarity are the three main pillars of her electoral campaign for the upcoming local elections. The first female to be elected as head of Paris stated her projects on Monday for the next six years if she wins the upcoming election in March.

The environmentally friendly mayor has created a stir during her six-year mandate in implementing projects to make Paris greener. Measures that have included more bike lanes, reducing the number of cars on the road, and expanding the bike-rental programme Velib.

Business

The US has reversed its decision to brand China a currency manipulator as the two countries prepare to wind down their trade war.  The US officially named China a currency manipulator in August when tensions were high between Beijing and Washington.

The US said it made the change because China had agreed to refrain from devaluing its currency to make its own goods cheaper for foreign buyers.

Washington and Beijing are expected to sign that "phase one" pact this week. The deal is aimed at de-escalating the tit-for-tat tariff war the two countries have engaged in since 2018.

The boss of Microsoft boss has spoken out about India's controversial new citizenship law. The India-born executive said what is happening is "sad" and he would love to see a Bangladeshi immigrant succeed in the country's technology industry. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been criticised as it is seen as discriminating against Muslims.

The UK government is to consider cutting air passenger duty on all domestic flights as part of a plan to save regional airline Flybe from collapse. According to reports the chancellor Sajid Javid is to meet later with the business and transport departments to discuss lowering the £13 charge. The change would allow Flybe to defer a tax bill and implement a rescue plan. By applying the move to the whole industry, the government will avoid breaching EU state aid rules.

Sport

Tennis - Practice at the Australian Open was temporarily suspended on Tuesday and qualifying delayed by an hour because of poor air quality in Melbourne caused by ongoing bushfires. Organisers said the conditions were expected to improve and would be "monitored constantly".

An estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land has burned since 1 July amid record-breaking temperatures and months of drought. At least 28 people have died.

Football – Aston Villa have gone ahead and signed former Liverpool and Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina on loan from AC Milan for the rest of the season.

Reina made 394 appearances for Liverpool between 2005 and 2013 before moving to Bayern Munich.

Cricket - A man who racially abused England fast bowler Jofra Archer during the first Test against New Zealand in November has been banned from attending international and domestic matches in the country for two years. He has been issued with a verbal warning for using insulting language.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) say they have contacted the man and written to him, advising of his ban until 2022. If he breaches the ban he could be "subjected to further police action".

Formula One - Ferrari's Charles Leclerc says he and team-mate Sebastian Vettel will not crash together on track again. Their collision in Brazil at the end of last season was the climax of a series of controversies between the two drivers.

The 22-year-old Monegasque, who was speaking in an interview with Autosport, added: "The most important thing is we work together well off track to develop the car in the best way possible and of course not exceed the limits when we are on track like we have seen in Brazil.

Rugby Union - England head coach Eddie Jones has filled the vacancies in his backroom team for the Six Nations with England Sevens boss Simon Amor and former South African coach Matt Proudfoot.

Proudfoot, who helped mastermind South Africa's World Cup final victory over England, joins as forwards coach. South African-born Proudfoot, a former Scotland international, has been involved with the Springboks since 2016 and joins England following the end of his contract with South Africa.

Weather

Mostly cloudy across the Alpes Maritimes and the Var. Moderate variable winds with highs of 15 degrees in Menton, Nice and Saint Tropez. Inland in Brignoles in the Var and Grasse in the Alpes Maritimes reaching 12 degrees.

This evening going down to 3 degrees in the Var and 7 degrees in the Alpes Maritimes with cloudy skies.

Outlook for Wednesday and Thursday and the rest of the week similar to today with highs of 14 degrees and lows of 8 degrees. Rain is forecast for Sunday across the region.

Finally 

Snowel Gallagher and Gritter Thunberg are among the pun-filled names chosen for a new fleet of eight salt spreaders in Manchester.

The city council asked for suggestions on Twitter and received more than 2,000.

The catchiest 24 were then put to the public to have the final say in a series of polls and both Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg and  Oasis star Noel Gallagher , who is from the city were chosen.

The other winning names include Basil Salty, Grit Astley, Spreaddie Flintoff, Spreaddie Mercury, Snowbi-Gone Kenobi and Slushay Away.

The names will all be emblazoned on the new vehicles, which the council says have been provided through a £960,000 investment to ensure more than 700km (435 miles) of Manchester's roads are treated in icy conditions.

Residents will also be able to find out if the witty-named gritters have been used in their area after new "track my gritter" software was developed, which the council says will soon be on its website.

They will also be able to "Ask Alexa" if the vehicles have been driven around where they live.

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