French firefighters protest working conditions, low pay


Firemen march as they protest with hospital staff on wages, working conditions and pensions, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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PARIS (AP) — Thousands of French firefighters marched through Paris on Tuesday against low pay for a risky job in a protest that ended in an unusual face-off with police — who held their own protest two weeks ago.

Police used tear gas and water cannon when the march diverged from the official route and lined up their vans in a blockade when a contingent of firefighters refused to call it quits at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris. Some firefighters apparently wanted to block the nearby beltway.

Andre Goretti, president of the Union of Professional Firefighters, noted that the firefighters had been on strike since June, but had won only “total disdain” from authorities.

Tuesday’s protest march, like the nationwide strike, involves only professional firefighters — not volunteers who make up a large majority, or Paris and Marseille firefighters who are military.

Holding aloft smoky flares and wearing uniforms and reflective helmets, they walked through Paris. Some donned gas masks when tear gas was fired.

Tuesday’s protest comes two weeks after a similar protest by police in the streets of Paris.

Pierre Tenepoude, who has been a firefighter for 10 years in the city of Nimes, said firefighters feel like they’re working at 200% without respect or the means to do their jobs properly.

Union leader Goretti, speaking on BFMTV, said firefighters want an increase in their ranks and improved risk compensation.

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