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France

Ferry company to resume Corsica-Marseille crossings after 17 day strike

SNCM ferry in the port of Marseille, southern France
SNCM ferry in the port of Marseille, southern France Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

The staff of the SNCM, the French company which operates ferries and cargo ships between Corsica, mainland France, and North Africa, voted on Thursday to end their 17 day strike.

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In a deal reached with shareholders, insolvency proceedings are to be put on hold for the immediate future.

The company is in serious financial difficulties and in competition with another French company, La Méridionale and the Italian company Corsica Ferries.

The state, and the majority shareholder Transdev, favoured putting the company into receivership, as it is unable to pay the 400 million euro fine imposed by the European Commision for accepting state subsidies judged to be illegal.

The unions plan to appeal against the fines.

Under the deal agreed on Wednesday, SNCM will have time to try to find new shareholders.

On Thursday morning, SNCM trade union activists ended a week-long blockage on the ship Kalliste, owned by La Méridionale, which they had refused to allow to sail.

The 17 day strike had a significant impact on the economy, Corsica imports most of its food from mainland France and restaurants and hotels faced problems.

The strike angered some local business people, and there were violent incidents. The SNCM offices were wrecked on Wednesday and a ship was attacked.

The island’s population triples in the summer and tourism is one of its most important economic activities.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday that the strike “called into question the very survival of the SNCM and the very survival of the Corsican economy”. He threatened to take “measures” to end the blockage, provoking the anger of strikers.

SNCM crossings are due to resume on Thursday evening.
 

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