Eurostar trains from Paris to London were running up to two hours late and trucks stacked up on the approaches to the Channel port of Calais Thursday as French customs officers staged the fourth day of a work-to-rule strike.
Customs officers are demanding higher pay and better working conditions while seeking to demonstrate what might happen if full border controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union as planned at the end of the month.
Thursday was the first day that customs officers at the Gare du Nord Paris railway station joined in the work-to-rule action which has seen staff carry out longer checks than normal.
“Ongoing disruptions are affecting all trains departing Paris-Nord (railway station) and can lead to delays of up to 120 minutes,” Eurostar told AFP as customs’ checks led to long queues of passengers waiting to board trains.
One train was cancelled.
Customs officers “are not on strike, they have decided today to carry out thorough checks, working strictly to rule,” Manuela Dona, leader of their CGT trade union section, at Gare du Nord.
The action is related to Brexit “and the consequences it will have on working conditions,” said Francois Schallebaum, head of the Solidaires Douanes union branch.
“In the light of Brexit we are getting extra staff, only a few extra staff, which does not compensate for people leaving, being transferred or rotated,” he added.
Work-to-rule strikes, which began Monday in the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais, northern France, led to long delays for trucks waiting to cross to Britain.
Regional authorities in Calais Thursday said traffic was very heavy in the morning, but “overall getting better” in the afternoon with trucks boarding ferries “near normally”.
Some 500 heavy goods vehicules had been corralled in holding areas just short of Calais to avoid clogging road traffic but they were allowed to proceed Thursday evening, regional authorities reported.
Trucks were nevertheless still backed up for about four kilometres (2.4 miles) on the A16 motorway lane leading from Dunkirk to Calais, authorities added.
The French government has announced the recruitment of an extra 700 customs officials to cope with the demands of Brexit, but unions say more are needed.
Customs officers want more pay, “more staff and more help to deal with Brexit,” Vincent Thomazo, a Unsa trade union representative told AFP.
The government minister in charge of customs, Gerald Darmanin, told AFP he would meet customs officers’ representatives on Tuesday.