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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Strike threat hits euro launch
Euro coins
There for the taking? Guards fear a robbery epidemic
French security guards are threatening to go on strike over January's launch of the euro currency in its cash form.

The guards fear that the operation to shift huge amounts of cash around France will provide unprecedented opportunities for robbers - with the security staff in the firing line.

Unions are demanding tighter security and better consultation, and are warning of industrial action if their demands are not met.

I was nervous before this meeting and I'm still nervous

Union spokesman after meeting police chief
The government risks an "explosion of industrial unrest" among drivers, warned one drivers' union, the CFDT.

Another union, the FO, said security arrangements detailed at a meeting with the director-general of the French national police were not satisfactory.

"I was nervous before this meeting and I'm still nervous," said Roger Poletti, head of FO's transport wing.

He warned of "quite a tough conflict" at the end of the year unless authorities came back with reassurances.

Major task

The scale of the euro-delivery task is huge.

In France alone, it involves:

  • replacing at least 1.5bn French franc notes
  • switching around 8bn coins
  • cash worth a total of $93bn
  • 14,000 journeys which will need police protection
  • 47,000 exchange centres, which will receive cash from September onwards

Similar operations will swing into force across the other euro-zone countries, as banks and businesses gear up for the launch on 1 January, 2002.

Armed French police officer
The government has promised armed security
The guards' fears have not been assuaged by an announcement by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin earlier this month, that troops, police and fleets of armoured trains and cars would help protect the cash.

Bank staff with the FO union have also complained that the government is failing to consult them properly.

"All the planning is taking place with all the ministries acting as though they know what is in the best interest of workers and failing to consult with the union," a spokesman said.

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