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PARIS – French police protesting overwork and many thousands of unpaid hours dragged their feet Wednesday at passport check-in lines in at least one terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport, creating long lines of waiting passengers.
The airport police prefecture said the slow-down was currently hitting only Terminal 1, and any delayed check-ins at two other terminals were due to a high number of passengers. The prefecture said police were working but taking their time with "deep checks" of passengers. The Paris Aeroport authority tweeted and posted on its website that "controls at borders may be longer" and advised passengers to allow extra time.
The delays came as the Alliance police union called on police officers across France to handle only emergencies amid negotiations with the Interior Ministry for compensation after weeks containing often aggressive protests by a grassroots movement. Police have also been called on for extra duty following a deadly attack last week near the Strasbourg Christmas market that has led to increased surveillance around France.
At least two other unions were encouraging slow-downs.
It was not immediately clear whether police stations around France were being affected.
The French government on Tuesday proposed giving 300-euro ($340) bonuses to officers deployed to the protests by the yellow vest movement that started in mid-November.
French President Emmanuel Macron committed to the idea of protest duty pay earlier this month. However, police representatives, who opened talks on Tuesday with the Interior Ministry, want compensation for years of overtime duty never paid out. Talks were to continue Wednesday.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the sum amounts to nearly 275 million euros, and includes decades of unpaid overtime, but suggested demands would eventually be met.
"We don't have a right to have a debt like that," the minister said Tuesday. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire agreed, saying Wednesday on BFMTV that "it seems legitimate that they be paid."
France's national police have long complained about being overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid, and have tried to press their cause in the past to no avail. However, their current high profile has put them in a unique position to negotiate.
Castaner has called police into the streets in near-record numbers to counter five Saturdays of yellow vest protests. Police daily survey traffic roundabouts where protesters slow traffic. The movement takes its names from the fluorescent safety vests they don — required equipment in all cars in France.
In addition, police are being asked to up surveillance of France's Christmas markets and other sensitive areas after the Strasbourg attack that killed five people.