09/21/2012 07:19 am ET Updated Nov 21, 2012

Apple French Protesters Try Getting Heard On iPhone 5 Launch Day

PARIS (Reuters) - Hundreds of French iPhone fans lining up at Apple Inc's flagship store in Paris to buy the new iPhone 5 got an earful on Friday from disgruntled employees and former retailers protesting against the group's policies.

Some 20 former staffers of independent Apple distributors which closed after struggling to compete with Apple's own stores marched in front of its flagship Paris store.

Joining them were three store employees striking to protest against Apple's refusal to offer perks such as meal vouchers and a yearly bonus of an extra one month's salary that are standard for many French workers.

"It's spoiling the party a little," said Apple enthusiast Francois Oge, 17, while adding:

"It's very exciting ... There are so many people, everybody is talking to everybody else. Everybody should experience this!"

Gathering in front of the store, steps away from Paris' gilded opera house, protesters unfurled a white banner in front of the store's main entrance saying: "Apple, your jobless are in the street", but were kept at a distance by barricades and a handful of police.

The slogan was also chanted by employees of eBizcuss, part of the country's biggest network of Apple computer resellers which was placed in bankruptcy liquidation procedures in July.

"We were the ones who installed Apple in France 30 years ago and today they're killing us bit by bit, they're strangling us, with their policy of opening Apple Stores," the workers' spokeswoman Patricia Allouche said.

Unemployment in France is already at a 13-year high of just over 10 percent, with a number of large companies preparing to make further mass lay-offs.

An expected strike by employees of the Apple Store itself mostly fizzled, meanwhile, with just the three members of the union which had called the walkout marching. The SUD union which has taken the hardest line against Apple represents roughly a quarter of its 1,000 store employees in France.

"We want the same benefits of the employees of the big French companies," said Thomas Bordage, shop steward of the union told journalists. "All we got was a thank you note from (Apple CEO) Tim Cooke telling us we're great."

(Reporting By Gwenaelle Barzic)



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