Protests greet French iPhone 5 buyers

David Price and Peter Sayer
22 September, 2012
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Qu’est-ce que nous voulons? iPhone cinq! Quand voulons-nous? Maintenant!

After speculation that the iPhone 5 launch in Paris would be marred by a strike by Apple Store employees, Apple’s French HQ instead saw healthy demand for the latest iPhone handset yesterday. However, there were demonstrations outside the Store by a number of former employees of a now-defunct Apple reseller, shouting slogans in protest at their sackings in July.

Apple’s French employees are represented by two unions, one of which had called for a strike on iPhone 5 launch day – an obvious target for industrial action. The union had demanded pay rises for Apple Store staff, but Apple refused on the basis that its French subdivision had actually posted a loss last year.

The apparently fully staffed Paris Store suggests that the union’s call to strike failed, but union spokesperson Thomas Bordage was defiant.

“The company has thrown an offer of luncheon vouchers at us as in an attempt to calm things down but we will go on demanding improved conditions for every Apple worker in France,” he said.

Along with the pay rise, the union had demanded the payment of a 13th month of salary – a sort of bonus that is common in France but not a legal requirement – and a water fountain in the Apple Store.

Although it seems to have dodged the looming strike action, Apple’s Paris Store was still targeted by angry protesters who were angry about their sackings from eBizcuss in July and their failure to secure jobs with Apple. They shouted slogans including “Apple you have sent jobless people to the streets” and “It is us who established Apple in France.”

eBizcuss operated eight Apple retail stores in France under the ICLG brand, all of which have now closed.

However, 75 of the former eBizcuss sales staff want to carry on selling Apple products, this time working for Apple, and they have asked an industrial tribunal to make Apple give them jobs.

They base their demand on the relationship Apple had with their former employer, saying that eBizcuss was forced to decorate its stores according to Apple specifications, to sell mostly Apple-branded products and to send its staff on Apple-provided training courses every three months.

If eBizcuss didn’t follow Apple’s rules, then it would have lost the wholesale price discount that allowed it to match Apple’s retail prices, said one protestor. With so much of their activity under Apple’s control, they might as well have been Apple employees anyway, she said.

India’s Economic Times reports that the first Parisian to ‘acheter une iPhone cinq’ was a 19-year-old Italian DJ named Anthony Shahir. He had queued up since Wednesday morning local time – and in fact travelled from Rome for the launch.

– with IDG News Service

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