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Striking French workers in Calais blockaded ferries over the bank holiday weekend, causing chaos for thousands of British travellers, reportedly to recover their coffee machines.

About 6,000 travellers were affected by the dispute, including 2,000 Britons stranded in Calais, with ferries unable to enter or leave the port until services resumed on Monday morning.

Ferry workers had caused mayhem to collect coffee machines, TV sets, paint and sports equipment from two former MyFerryLink ships at the heart of the dispute.

“The port was blocked because of coffee capsules,” reported Nord Littoral, the local daily newspaper.

A ferry worker who is not a union member said: “Basically they wanted to get the material for themselves – mainly the coffee machines.”

The protesters belong to a union-run cooperative facing bankruptcy after the two ferries it used to hire were sold by Eurotunnel to DFDS Seaways.

The union has blockaded the port, the ring road and Eurotunnel terminal this summer in a campaign to save 487 jobs threatened by the sale.

Now, under a deal sponsored by the French government, 407 workers will be offered jobs with DFDS or Eurotunnel. The other 80 workers will receive a payoff of €18,000 (£13,000) each, the Times reported.

But on Sunday, several dozen union activists positioned three ship’s lifeboats in the harbour entrance after the port authority initially refused them the right to recover material from the former MyFerryLink and SeaFrance vessels, the Rodez and the Berlioz.

They said the items belonged to their cooperative. Eurotunnel, which used to own the two ferries, says at least some of the material belongs to it.

The authorities responded by shutting the port to avoid a collision between other ferries and the boats.

Britons returning home were told to divert to Dunkirk, or to spend the night in their cars.

The blockade bore fruit when the French interior ministry’s representative in the Calais area agreed to the union demands in the early hours of yesterday. Union members were allowed to board the two ferries and leave with their coffee machines.