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Apple workers in France stage strike on iPhone 15 launch day

By Manuel Ausloos and Louise Dalmasso

PARIS (Reuters) -Workers at Apple stores in France began a nationwide strike over pay and working conditions on Friday in a protest designed to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 15.

It is the latest headache for the tech giant in France after it was forced to stop selling its iPhone 12 model earlier this month for above-threshold radiation. Apple disputes the findings of the French watchdog.

About 30 staff were picketing outside the company's store in Opera in central Paris, one of three in the French capital, a few metres away from a line of about 40 customers waiting in the rain to enter the shop.

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"We are still the people who make Apple's wealth, and therefore I think that we deserve a little more honorable treatment than what we are given today," said Anais Durel, a 36-year old who has worked for Apple for 10 years.

A CGT union official said that "a few hundred" of Apple France's retail staff of about 2,300 had participated in the strike. He added that all the Apple France stores had remained open on Friday, albeit with lower staffing levels.

Apple declined to comment.

Apple unions including CGT, Unsa, CFDT and Cidre-CFTC, which also plan to strike on Saturday, have asked for a 7% wage increase to compensate for inflation, and an end to a months-long hiring freeze. Management did not want to offer more than a 4.5% hike, union officials said.

"Inflation is still quite nasty. There are a lot of employees who are experiencing difficulties," said Tarek, a CGT union leader who declined to give his last name.

"The goal is not at all to block sales of the iPhone, the goal is really to bring awareness to this situation," he added.

Staff at an Apple store in Barcelona, where about 250 people were queuing to enter the store on Friday morning, were set to join colleagues in France in protesting.

About 20 workers will set up an information picket outside the store on Paseo de Gracia in central Barcelona at midday, Pablo Paredes, leader of the CNT Apple union, told Reuters.

Paredes said the workers aim to highlight poor working conditions including contracts which do not compensate them for working at weekends or at night.

CNT is a minority union and only active in one of Barcelona's two stores. The union has not yet managed to secure a meeting with the company to lodge its complaints, Paredes said.

"We have been talking since August to our colleagues on strike in France. In Spain, unlike them, not all the unions have agreed to strike," Paredes said.

(Reporting by Manuel Ausloos, Louise Dalmasso and Abdul Saboor in Paris, Horaci Garcia in Barcelona, Corina Pons in Madrid; Additional reporting by Charlottte Van Campenhout and Geert De Clercq; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Sharon Singleton)