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February half-term ski holidays for hundreds of thousands of Brits could be ruined after French unions voted to shut down lifts during the school break.
The two major unions for seasonal and lift workers announced ‘unlimited’ strike action from January 31, as a dispute over pension reforms rumbles on.
Walkouts over the half-term period would hit Alpine resorts at their busiest period, and could close dozens of ski stations, The Times reported.
Eric Becker, head of the lift operators’ branch of the Force Ouvrière union, said: ‘We have decided to call for a strike during the February holidays because demands are listened to more during this period.’
Courchevel ski resort (file photo). The two major unions for seasonal and lift workers announced ‘unlimited’ strike action from January 31
A lift running over Courchevel (file photo). French unions voted to shut down lifts during the February school break
Demonstrators gather to march against pension reform in Paris on January 19
Half-term in the UK is split over two weeks, across February 11 to 25. In France it stretches across four weeks, from February 4 to March 4.
Confédération Générale du Travail, the other main union, put forward an open-ended notice of intention to strike.
It called for ‘especially strong action’ during the Ski World Cup in Courchevel and Méribel, which runs from March 16 to March 20.
It is unlikely that Brits with bookings at French ski resorts during the planned strike action will be able to get a refund because travel companies will technically be offering the holiday as sold.
Insurance will rarely cover ski days that have been missed due to a strike.
The start of the extended action will coincide with the next day of mass protests and stoppages against President Emmanuel Macron’s project to increase the retirement age.
Rolling stoppages, mainly in the Alps and Pyrenees, are anticipated across resorts, rather than all lifts being closed at once.
Pascal de Thiersant, director of the Société des 3 Vallées lift company, said: ‘After French strikes target ski lifts almost two years of Covid then the energy problem, the unions want to pile it on again. That’s really shooting themselves in the foot.’
Hundreds of thousands of Britons visit France during the February half term.
Sources told The Times that the strikes could ‘spell disaster’ for the British ski sector, which is recovering after the coronavirus pandemic.
‘This is exactly what we didn’t need to happen after so many years of disruption,’ one source told the newspaper. ‘Sales are going very well… but if everyone starts striking? That’s a different story.’
Macron’s government is continuing to push the retirement reform, which reaches parliament in late March, despite widespread public disapproval.
More than a million people marched in France on January 19 as part of the national workforce protest against Macron’s proposed pension reforms and the increase of the official retirement age from 62 to 64. This disrupted public transport, school and much of the country’s civil service.
Some of the strikers clashed with police, with the worst trouble taking place in Paris around Bastille Square.
Demonstrators hurled bottles, bins and smoke grenades at police who responded with tear gas and charged to disperse the troublemakers.
President Macron said he welcomed ‘democratic protest’ but added that any rioting would be met with ‘the full force of the law’
The far-Left CGT union said there had been closer to two million-plus people at protests across France, and 400,000 in Paris alone.
More than 65 per cent of the public oppose the change to the pension system.
Retirement at 64 is the equal lowest age in Europe.
The unions and main opposition parties, which are on the hard-Left and hard-Right, say that it amounts to ‘brutal’ and ‘cruel’ treatment.
Over Christmas, major ski resorts in Europe were suffering from a lack of snow. Rising energy costs have also impacted resorts this season.