Cash Panic

photo: wine bar, au bistro

It's about time this place showed up.

Catch-22 for Draftees

Paris:- Sunday, 14. May 2000:- Nine days ago on a normal Friday afternoon in the centre of Nanterre, two cars and a stolen postal van blocked off an armored car. A dozen stocking-headed bandits appeared and proceeded to attack it with light and heavy machine guns, and finally, a tank-destroying rocket-launcher.

This blew a big hole in the immobilized armored car. The attack wounded the three money transporters inside the armored car, two of them seriously.

The band of robbers got away in two other cars with an estimated 23 million francs, and headed for an autoroute with an anti-crime brigade hot on their heels.

The fleeing gangsters left the freeway at Saint-Ouen and almost immediately ran into construction equipmentphoto: crepes caravan, denfert blocking their escape route in Saint-Denis. Shooting in the air did not clear the obstacle out of their path.

In France armored-cars are really heavily armored. This is a crêpes-wagon, and belongs with another story in the issue.

They set one of their getaway cars on fire and took over another at gunpoint, and the chase was on again. One of the bandits had been wounded during the battle with the armored car, and he was captured by police at an apartment in Blanc-Mesnil.

The rest of the gang disappeared in the direction of Aulnay-sur-Bois.

The attack came two days after armored-car crews staged a national strike to protest against the insecurity of their jobs, low pay, and the fact that their jobs are not officially considered dangerous.

This action was taken after the funeral of one of their colleagues, recently killed during another attack on an armored-car at Grenoble. This death was added to another on the 14. December 1999 and yet another at the beginning of 1999.

Armored-Car Crews On Strike

On Tuesday armored-car crews throughout France demonstrated their indignation by holding go-slow parades in city centres - fully supported by their unions.

Unlike firemen, who are classified as working in a risky profession, armored-car crews are considered to be mere employees, and low-paid ones at that.

In early talks with their employers they were offered a 'bonus' of 2000 francs, per year. Armored-car personnel are paid little more than the minimum wage and a 'rise' of little more than 165 francs a month would not compensate for the risks they face.

On Wednesday all of Brink's 4000 employees in France were on strike. Go-slow actions continued and in some places local units of the Banque de France were picketed.

By Thursday, Le Parisien declared on its front page that there was already a shortage of bank notes. Thursday's evening TV-news had reassuring statements made by major bank spokesmen - to the effect that there would be no shortage of cash.

On Friday morning, the ATM machines of two banks and the post office in my neighborhood had paper notices taped on them with the message that the machines were empty.

In the branch I use, I obtained cash by using my plastic - which involved an old mechanical copier and the triple-copy receipt-with-signature system, which also involved a phone call. The man also said the commission would be higher, but didn't say how much this might be.

The bank employee said that their ATM wouldphoto: cashless atm be refilled by the afternoon. When I cruised by to verify this, people were making withdrawals, limited to 500 francs. On Saturday morning the local machines were empty again.

Normally, ATMs are only filled with new notes, but bank personal were working overtime to sort the best notes from the rest in order to keep their ATMs operating.

Like many similar machines in France, this one's note says 'Empty.'

Without a supply of new money, and without the armored-car services taking away business receipts, money started to pile up in all sorts of places where it is not meant to be kept safe.

Lack of cash also seriously affected other business operations that run mainly on cash, such as the street marchés. Supermarkets and other big chain stores were also accepting payments made with plastic cards, for minuscule amounts. Cheques were welcome again too.

Meanwhile, talks between employers and the employees' union continued to be deadlocked with the armored-car operators claiming poverty.

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