Strikes in France: transport affected amid a national walkout over wages and the cost of living
France is bracing for nationwide strikes on Tuesday after unions called for a massive wage walkout, presenting President Emmanuel Macron with one of his toughest challenges since his re-election in May.
Public transport and schools are expected to be hit hard, as well as the health services and energy sectors.
Public and private sector employees have been called to stop work, following industrial action that has disrupted major French refineries and the supply of service stations.
Anxious to resolve “as soon as possible” the French fuel supply difficulties, Macron called a meeting at the Elysee Palace on Monday afternoon.
“The President of the Republic called for everyone’s spirit of responsibility and underlined the unbearable consequences for those who suffer daily from this hell,” said an anonymous source.
As the public transport disruption began, commuters were seen arriving at stations early to try to get to work, while worse than usual traffic jams were reported around Paris.
Regional trains as well as suburban networks have reduced services, while the Paris metro is also impacted and some Eurostar Services have been cancelled. However, long-distance TGV trains should only be marginally affected.
Some railway workers intend to extend the strike for the next few days until the All Saints holidays, Friday evening, to negotiate wage increases.
Public service workers’ unions have also called to join Tuesday’s strike, with possible disruptions in schools and other public facilities.
Demonstrations are planned throughout the country, that of Paris from 1400 CEST. Thousands of people took to the streets of Paris Sunday to protest against soaring prices.
The strikes come as tensions mount over high inflation and fears over the cost of living, although official figures for august show that France’s inflation rate of 6.6% was the lowest in the European Union.
In a tense political context, the French government is expected to pass the 2023 finance bill using special constitutional powers that would allow it to circumvent a vote in parliament, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Sunday.
Union leaders hope workers will be boosted by the government’s decision to force some of them back to work at petrol depots to try to get the fuel going again, a move some say jeopardizes the right of strike.
The CGT union notably called for the continuation of walkouts in a fourth week at TotalEnergies, although the oil company reached an agreement on Friday including a 7% increase and a bonus with other unions. The CGT is demanding a 10% wage increase, citing inflation and the huge profits made by the company.
Strikes have already spread to other parts of the energy sector, including at nuclear giant EDF where maintenance work crucial to Europe’s power supply will be delayed.
A representative of the FNME-CGT union told Reuters on Monday that the strikes were affecting work at 10 French nuclear power plants, with further maintenance delays at 13 reactors and reduced French power generation by a total of 2.2 gigawatts.