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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 17:37 GMT
French bank unions call off strike
Coffee in Paris, paid in euros
The strike had little impact on businesses
French bank workers have decided to call off their strike after it managed to achieve only a very limited support.


People have a big responsibility. Everyone has problems but one can not take the euro hostage

Laurent Fabius
The strike, which had threatened to disrupt the launch of the euro on its first working day, appeared to have little impact on business, as majority of bank branches remained open throughout the day.

France's finance minister, Laurent Fabius, said the strike was "not at all being followed", and that the protest did not cause significant trouble.

"People have a big responsibility," he said.

"Everyone has problems but one can not take the euro hostage."

Union demands

French bank unions had called the strike after demands for higher wages, better security and more staff were not met.

But many returned to work after draft accords were signed with some trade unions, while many holidaying employees were still unaware they had been asked to stay away from their offices on Wednesday.

Apart from the limited effect of the strike and some shortage of euro cash in parts of southern France, the launch of the euro in France proceeded smoothly.

A strike call at post offices, which also serve as banks, attracted the support of only 5% of workers.

Italian job

Italy's Central Bank workers followed their French colleagues into industrial action, with two of the six bank unions announcing a strike.

But the action was expected to have an even smaller effect, with only a few of the bank's offices in small towns closed.

Antonio Finocchiaro, a vice-director at the Bank of Italy, said that the country's banks and post offices should have received ample supplies of euro notes and coins, and that the strike was not expected to disrupt the switch from the lira.

The one-day strike was called in protest at delays over the renewal of a new labour contract.

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French union representative Karen Zial-Montpellier
"At the moment nobody can tell how much disruption has been caused"

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