LONDON – French President Nicolas Sarkozy received a political blow today after SeaFrance, the cross-Channel ferry operator, was shut down by the Court of Commerce in Paris, putting more than 1,000 people out of work, the Guardian has reported.
A last-ditch effort by the workers’ cooperative SeaFrance SCOP was ruled unacceptable by the court, according to Sky News. SeaFrance employees gathered outside shed tears upon hearing that the loss-marking firm had been liquidated and ordered to cease activity. Flares were lit to protest the decision, the BBC reported.
The firm went into receivership in 2010 and suspended its Dover-Calais route in November after the European Commission ruled that a $250 million French government bailout was illegal. SeaFrance’s ferries carried more than 3.5 million passengers a year, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The bulk of the job losses will occur in France, where jobs and wider economic concerns are key issues in the run-up to the country’s spring presidential elections.
Sarkozy said last week that he considered it his “duty” to try and save SeaFrance employees’ jobs. SeaFrance’s rival Eurotunnel has said it is considering putting in an offer for the ferry operator’s three passenger ferries and buying it out of liquidation, leasing its assets back to the SCOP cooperative.
According to France 24, the French government aims to unveil “solutions” by Tuesday to explore ways of keeping SeaFrance’s ferries up and running and preventing its employees from losing their jobs.
SeaFrance said that any customers who have made bookings with the company will receive refunds.