Transportation Strikes, University Protests Continue To Shake France
Above Photo: © Gerard Julien, AFP | Public railways SNCF railworkers demonstrate against planned reforms of the French government on April 13, 2018 in Paris as strikes on France’s rail network continue.
A new strike by Air France employees Tuesday will add to chaos in France, which is already reeling from strikes by rail workers and university students over proposed public sector reforms by President Emmanuel Macron.
To Macron’s dismay, the popular movements show no signs of slowing down.
The Air France tussle over salaries is separate from the larger and politically more significant stand-off between Macron’s centrist, business-friendly government and the public sector trade unions fighting its reform plans.
Rail unions are particularly up in arms over proposed reforms that they say would reduce job security. Students have been blocking several public universities over Macron’s plan to introduce more selective applications.
There is a general atmosphere of social discontent against Macron’s reforms, including protests and strikes by civil servants, energy workers and garbage collectors.
Recently, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire admitted that, while he couldn’t produce numbers, it was clear that the strikes were impacting growth.
“We have already identified an impact in certain sectors, including hotel reservations, transportation and tourism,” he told French radio Europe 1.
FRANCE 24 takes a look at the latest on the three main strikes.
About 30 percent of Air France flights scheduled on Tuesday are expected to be canceled due to a strike over pay. Crews and ground staff, whose wages have been frozen since 2011, are seeking a 6percent pay rise. This will mark their eighth day of walkouts since February.
Some 45 percent of long-haul flights will be canceled along with 35 percent of medium-haul flights to and from Paris. According to Air France, the strikes could cost the company upwards of €220 million.
On Monday, Air France’s management offered a 2 percent rise this year followed by an increase totaling 5 percent over the following three years. Unions have until the end of the week to decide whether to accept the deal.
The pilots’ main union, SNPL Air France, said Tuesday the offer doesn’t meet its demands. Union President Philippe Evain called it “totally ridiculous and indecent”.
The fourth edition of an ongoing strike by workers at the French national rail carrier the SNCF was set to begin Tuesday evening as the National Assembly prepared to vote on a bill addressing rail sector reforms.
The main union, the CGT, has denounced the reforms and promised a major strike on April 18 and 19 in response.
The union also pledged its commitment to the rolling strike – which is set to continue until at least June 28, causing weeks of headaches for the network’s 4.5 million daily passengers. Traffic will be disrupted two days out of every five.
The SNCF said it will post updates of train schedules on its website at 17:00 each day, letting commuters know which trains will be running. Below are the proposed dates for train strikes over the next three months:
- Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4
- Sunday 8 and Monday 9
- Friday 13 and Saturday 14
- Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19
- Monday 23 and Tuesday 24
- Saturday 28 and Sunday 29
- Thursday 3 and Friday 4
- Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9
- Sunday 13 and Monday 14
- Friday 18 and Saturday 19
- Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24
- Monday 28 and Tuesday 29
- Saturday 2 and Sunday 3
- Thursday 7 and Friday 8
- Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13
- Sunday 17 and Monday 18
- Friday 22 and Saturday 23
- Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28
On strike days, national rail services will be severely impacted, with traffic almost halved. International rail travel will also be hit, with three out of four trains running.
In Paris, public transport will operate almost as normal. Regional trains, including the RER B (which connects the city to its main airport, Roissy Charles de Gaulle or CDG), will be impacted the most by the strike, with an average of three out of four trains running.
Four different universities in France are still closed due to protests that started in February in response to a law proposing to restrict university access. Ten or 12 other sites have been partially blocked by students. The protests have meant that, in some locations, students are unable to sit their exams.
In an attempt to slash high failure rates among first-year undergraduates, a new law that passed in February seeks in part to personalise the admissions process, controversially chipping away at the principle of automatic entry for French high school graduates. Until now, places in the most popular courses of study have been attributed by drawing lots, without regard for a candidate’s grades or qualifications. For critics, any nudge towards “sélection” is sacrilege.
One university in total shutdown is Nanterre, known as the birthplace of the famous student protests that ripped across France in May 1968.
On Monday there was a police intervention at Paul Valéry University in the southern town of Montpellier. Last week, someone hacked into the university’s servers, compromising its ability to holdexams.