Around 1,500 homes in France have been left without heating or hot water after gas network staff unions went on strike to call for improved wages.
The CGT union led the charge against the GRDF gas distribution network this weekend, after three weeks of strikes. The company has said that as a result, it could take up to five days for it to reconnect the heating and hot water of the homes affected.
But some householders have said that problems have been going on for much longer, with reconnection taking much longer than five days.
One man, who moved into his apartment in Essonne with his child at the start of November, told FranceInfo that he had been advised his supplies would not be reconnected until at least mid-December. He said: “They told me December 15. I would have gone almost a month without heating or hot water.
“I can hold out in an apartment at 14 degrees. But with a child, it’s not good. I find that shameful.”
#GRDF ils sont en grève depuis 3 semaines et personne n en parle. Ils laisse des milliers de famille sans Gas (chauffage et eau chaude) en plein hiver mais ça ne dérange personnes. C est honteux. J ai honte de notre service public ……— MD (@DelavilleMarine) November 25, 2022
He added that he had to use space heaters “in the bedroom at night so that the little one does not freeze overnight”. Without any hot water, he had to boil water for washing. He said: “I’ve been using three litres of water to wash the little one, and for my own washing too.”
It was only after taking to Twitter to share his experience that he was finally able to get through to GRDF, and have his gas supply reconnected. Before that, he had not managed to resolve the problem with GRDF, despite calling every day, he said.
GRDF has said that the issues are due to the strike, but the CGT has denied this. Eric Gautier, representative at the CGT, said: “This is something that has maybe been worsened by the strike, but this kind of thing happens all the time.
"Users are waiting beyond reasonable times for a gas service to be put into operation, it happens,” he said. “In Paris, we have several dozen gas technician positions that are vacant. These are positions that are not attractive [in terms of hiring staff]. In terms of pay, it's a disaster."
Staff on strike are calling for improved salaries, and say that their pay is barely higher than the SMIC (minimum wage) despite soaring inflation.
The CGT declined to sign an agreement that would increase salaries by 2.3%.
Mr Gautier said that failing to pay staff more, despite the company having paid €518million in dividends to shareholders in 2022, which he said was “twice as much as last year”, was a “profound injustice”.
Negotiations have been more of a struggle, he said, because the CGT has not been supported by all other unions. Some unions have alleged that CGT members have behaved threateningly towards members who have not taken part in the strike.
For its part, the GRDF has said it is in contact with local mayors in a bid to help those in the most urgent need.
The strike may continue until December 2, if no agreement is reached before then. This could leave homes without gas for even longer.