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Many ATMs in France Out of Cash Because of Two-Week Strike by Armored Car Drivers

Aired May 17, 2000 - 2:42 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Many automatic teller machines in France are out of cash because of a two-week strike by armored car drivers there.

As CNN Paris bureau chief Peter Humi reports, shoppers and businesses are learning how to make do with fewer francs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER HUMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's becoming an increasingly rare sight in Paris: a cash machine that actually dispenses cash.

"This is the fourth machine I've tried, " said this man. This machine may be functioning, but the majority are not.

"It's not working," says the young woman, "Now where do I go?"

Only two out of five cash machines in Paris are functioning, and this is the reason why. A deadly attack on an armored car ferrying cash in Marseilles in the south of France and another a few days ago in a Paris suburb. Ten other hold-ups this year and 14 personnel killed in the last five years have led to a strike by security couriers.

"We want to receive a risk bonus," said this Brinks employee. Security firms have offered a one-time payment of 7,000 francs, just less than $1,000, but they have rejected demands for higher pay. The workforce says they're in no mood to bargain.

The cash shortage is beginning to affect small businesses. Natalie Geffroy (ph) owns a bakery in Central Paris.

"We have our regular customers," she explains. "When they don't have the cash," she adds, "we either give them credit, or accept checks or charge cards for 40 francs." The limit used to be 100 francs, about $13.

Banks say they still have cash from clients who make deposits, but acknowledge they are beginning to ration banknotes, in particular smaller denomination notes, such as 100 and 200 franc bills.

(on camera): And if you do draw money from the bank, you're likely to get these -- 500 franc notes, which may not necessarily be of much use, because due to an epidemic of forgeries, most stores here won't accept them.

Peter Humi, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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