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Progress Reported in Paris Strike

November 6, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ A union leader reported progress today in overnight talks to end a trucker strike that is putting the squeeze on France, holding out hope for resolution by the weekend.

Truckers have mounted about 150 barricades across France since going on strike Sunday night, blocking commercial traffic on highways.

In parts of France, food and fish were starting to spoil, gas stations were without fuel supplies along much of the Atlantic Coast and some major factories were without parts.

Claude Debons, who leads the French Democratic Workers Confederation, told French radio there were ``positive advances″ in talks that started at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and ended about 6 a.m. today.

He said truckers got their main demand _ an hourly wage like most French workers _ even if the salary has not yet been set.

Talks were to resume at late afternoon. There is the possibility of a ``positive conclusion before the weekend,″ Debons said.

Unions representing France’s 300,000 truckers want pay raises of up to 7 percent. The drivers are seeking a guaranteed salary of $1,600 for 200 hours of work a month and compensation for down time during loading and unloading.

Owners say those concessions could price them out of the European trucking industry, which is to be deregulated in July.

Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, eager to end his first major labor crisis, told Parliament on Tuesday that he was introducing a law to strengthen truckers’ rights. He also accused owners of not respecting an agreement that ended last year’s walkout.

A truckers strike a year ago paralyzed France for 12 days. A prolonged strike now could slow Christmas shipments and stifle economic growth.

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