French say strike is ‘justified’ and make other plans

Coach companies such as Flixbus have seen as much as a 70% rise in bookings as a result of the planned strike on December 5

Two thirds of French people believe the planned strike for December 5 against pension reform is “justified”, even as SNCF confirms 150,000 cancellations, and people make alternative travel plans.

More than 66% of French people said that they believe strike action to be “justified”, but the exact same percentage (66%) also said that they would welcome a uniform pension system, and an end to special pension arrangements in some professions.

Yet, 65% of respondents also believe that the government will stand firm in its reform plans, despite the strike, the poll from Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting for news source FranceInfo and newspaper Le Figaro said. The poll was conducted online with a representative sample of 1,005 people, on November 27 and 28.

Support for the strike came from all areas of the population, including 81% of public sector workers, 63% of private sector workers, 63% independent workers, and 53% of retired people.

Politically, only supporters of ruling party LREM (70%) were against the movement, with 54% of these people finding the movement “unjustifiable”. Among other parties, including opposition La France Insoumise, support reached 84%, 83% (socialists) and 77% (Rassemblement National).

The poll suggests that public opinion has softened towards the strike, as a previous poll one month ago, by the same agency, found that 57% of the country thought the plans were “not justifiable”. However, at that point, the strike had been confined only to SNCF and had not yet spread further.

SNCF disruption confirmed

The support comes as train company SNCF confirmed that 150,000 journeys will be disrupted or cancelled on its network from December 5 to 8. It had already stopped people from being able to buy tickets for these days.

SNCF said: “Clients can now plan, and fall back on trains that will be running on these dates.”

The company said it had stopped others booking tickets for these days to help passengers who have already bought tickets “easier access” to a confirmed train, and to avoid “selling tickets that we cannot guarantee commercially”.

SNCF said: "From December 3, at 17h everyday, we will send out an update on any delays or disruption expected in the next two days, on the TGV Inoui, Ouigo and Intercités services, so that our clients can get organised. This info will be available via all channels, everyday at 17h, including the Assistant SNCF and Oui.sncf apps, and the Oui.sncf and sncf.com websites.”

Those who have given their number to SNCF when booking will also be “advised of the running of their train”.

 

Alternative travel plans

The public appears to have been acting fast to put alternative travel options in place on strike day.

Car-sharing platform BlaBlaCar has seen a tenfold increase in sign-ups in the past few days, and has even employed thirty more people specially to cope with increased demand over the strike period.

Bus and coach companies have also seen a rise in sales, with prices said to be rising with demand, and some companies reporting a 70% rise in reservations compared to normal sales.

Raphaël Daniel, spokesperson for coach company Flixbus, said: “We are adding extra coaches, thousands of extra seats across a dozen of the most in-demand destinations, including Paris-Strasbourg, Paris-Lyon and Grenoble-Lyon.”

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