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1997: Angry truckers blockade French ports
Thousands of lorries are at a standstill in France as striking French drivers form roadblocks around the country.

The strikers are concentrating on stopping heavy goods vehicles at ports, oil refineries and major roads.

Talks to try to end the dispute over pay and conditions are scheduled for tomorrow.

At 1000 local time (2100 GMT) pickets from the biggest union, Force Ouvriere, used concrete blocks to seal off part of the ferry port at Calais.

About 15 British lorries caught behind the blockade were allowed to go through, as a gesture of goodwill.

But union officials said that from midnight (2300 GMT) no lorries would be allowed in or out of the port.

The Road Haulage Association in Britain said it expected hundreds of drivers to be trapped in spite of driving through the night in an attempt to beat the blockades.

Across France there are barricades at oil depots, important intersections and borders.

However, strikers say they are only targeting freight and are allowing ordinary motorists through.

Britain's Freight Transport Association has said it is not hopeful the dispute will end quickly and is calling on the French police to ensure the safety and free passage of drivers.

Earlier on Sunday French drivers' unions rejected a 5% pay offer from one of the smaller employers' organisations, UNOSTRA.

The offer was turned down by local union branches as well as the larger UFT employers' federation, representing 80% of truck companies.

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French lorries blockading Calais
French truckers want a bigger pay rise

Britain braces for the French strikes

In Context
The strike followed identical action by French truckers in 1996 when they caused havoc on Europe's entire road transport system.

The 1997 blockades brought similar problems with lorries, unable to board ferries, lined up for miles on roads approaching ports all across Europe.

The French drivers ended their action after five days when the country's biggest transport union signed a deal with employers.

In 1998 French dock workers carried out a blockade of ports, this time bringing chaos to passenger traffic as well as freight.

Similar action by French fisherman in 2000 also left thousands stranded for several days.

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