France is set for more disruption on Wednesday (March 15) as opponents of the government’s controversial pension reforms -- which include raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 -- go on strike again.
Trains are expected to be ‘severely disrupted’ on Wednesday (March 15), according to French operator SNCF.
But France’s transport minister, Clément Beaune, played down the impact of the walkout.
Although he admitted there would be some disruption on national and regional trains, it would not be as bad as on previous strike days.
However, Fabrice Michaud, the general secretary of the CGT Transports union, told FranceInfo: “It’s a gradual process to bring France to a standstill, and we have not said our last word on the issue.”
On Tuesday, three-in-five TGVs, one-in-two TERs, and one-in-three Intercités are scheduled to run.
In the Paris area, RATP services are running although there is still some disruption, with the RER D line most affected (only two-in-five trains running).
Grève contre la réforme des retraites : les prévisions de trafic à la SNCF et à la RATP pour ce mardi @visactu— France Bleu (@francebleu) March 14, 2023
For Wednesday (March 15) the Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) has again asked airlines to cancel 20% of their flights at Paris-Orly, due to renewed air traffic controller strikes.
It has invited “passengers who can, to postpone their journey, and to check with airlines to find out the status of their flight”.
Travellers are advised to check the status of their flight before travelling to French airports on Wednesday.
Toulouse and Nantes say access to their airports might be difficult on Wednesday.
Fuel and petrol
Many refineries are still on strike, including workers at TotalEnergie, Esso-ExxonMobil, and Pétroineos sites, many of whom have been taking action in renewable strikes since last week.
Six of the seven refineries in France are currently blockaded. There are still supplies at the 200 depots across the country, and most petrol stations are not yet reporting major shortages, although around 5-7% do have low stock, especially in the west of the country.
Fabrice Coudour, federal secretary of CGT Energie, said that gas workers at methane and gas stock centres are also on strike, with “enormous numbers of sites” set to strike again in large numbers, until and including “March 15”.
Read more: French petrol stations see shortages as pension protests continue
Traffic at the entrances to several cities is disrupted today after protesters set up roadblocks.
In Nantes, access to the airport is blockaded, and the city’s ring road is gridlocked. Similar issues have been reported in several towns in Brittany too, including Brest, Guingamp, and Landernau; as well as Dieppe, Penly, Le Havre, and Evreux in Normandy.
Le Mans and Meysse (Sarthe and Ardèche respectively) are also reporting issues.
The largest maternelle and elementary teaching union, FSU-SNUipp, and the collège and lycée union SNES-FSU, have called for another strike among members on March 15.
Some unions have been in support of ‘renewable (ongoing)’ staff strikes since yesterday (March 13).
Some collèges and lycées have even been blockaded by students in support of staff.
Waste collectors are continuing to strike in cities across the country. In Paris, bins are overflowing, while in Nantes, authorities have recommended that households no longer leave their bags or bins outside.
The Paris Mairie has estimated that as many as 5,400 tonnes of rubbish were not collected on Sunday, March 12 alone, and another 5,600 tonnes remained uncollected on Monday, March 13.
Three incinerators in the capital are not working, which partly explains the waste build-up.
Régis Vieceli, CGT general secretary of the waste and sanitation sector of the city of Paris, told BFMTV: "The movement has been extended until Wednesday. We are very determined to continue the movement until this [pension] bill is withdrawn.
Grève des éboueurs contre la réforme des retraites: Paris croule sous plus de 4500 tonnes d'ordures pic.twitter.com/k8JCv0DzJ4— BFMTV (@BFMTV) March 11, 2023
Police could be asked to intervene to clear rubbish, including from the household waste management company Syctom, but the company said it had not yet taken this step.
Mr Beaune accused the Paris mayor of “being on strike herself and doing nothing” about the issue.
Energy union CGT-Energie said some power cuts could be expected today (March 14) and tomorrow, particularly to official government buildings.
It notably said that it had cut off power to the prefecture of Alpes-Maritimes, in Nice, this morning.
More strikes planned?
As well as tomorrow’s ‘general strike’, many workers have called for ongoing, ‘renewable’ strikes, including at fuel refineries and among rubbish collectors. Electricity supplier workers and SNCF staff are also likely to continue action outside of the official strike days.
Union leaders are set to protest outside the Assemblée Nationale on Thursday, March 16, head of CFDT union Laurent Berger said. Frédéric Souillot, from the FO, told Le Parisien that "action would take place across all prefectures in all departments in many towns in France”, to coincide with debates the day after the CMP meetings.
At the time of writing, no other national strike dates have been planned, although many unions have said they are determined to continue the action until the government repeals its reform plans.
Senate debate: What’s happening now?
The Senate is expected to hold a deciding vote on Thursday, March 16, after hearing the results of the cross-party commission (commission mixte paritaire, CMP) brought together hastily last week.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne received MPs and Senators from the CMP yesterday afternoon, with the final meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 15), and the resultant bill set to be received by MPs the same day. This CMP will decide on the pension reform bill before putting it to the chambers.
The CMP’s deliberations will “not be broadcast live”, said Assemblée Nationale president Yaël Braun-Pivet this morning to FranceInfo. As a result, 14 MPs will be tasked with creating a written version of the meetings.
Ms Braun-Pivet said: "The CMP's work will be spread only by a written report which records the work and votes of the committee as well as the speeches made.”
Her comments come after the head of the Socialist party has asked her to authorise “exceptionally”, the live broadcasting of the committee’s meeting.
And, the leader of the LFI MPs, Mathilde Panot, said she was opposed to a "corridor democracy".
She, and her LFI colleagues, pledged to "use everything we have at our disposal", using social networks, and regular press briefings, during the CMP, for "publicity and transparency".
The government is now focusing on the Les Républicains, as the party whose votes could make the difference in carrying the vote through with a majority (as the government alone does not hold a majority). President of the party, Eric Ciotti, and head of LR Senators, Bruno Retailleau, have both called on their members to vote through the reforms.
The government has said that it “does not want to use [article] 49.3”, despite suggestions that it may take this option. It is a controversial article that would allow the government to push through the legislation without agreement from the rest of the chamber.
However, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said today that the government was “working on one option: to get a majority”, whole Public Accounts Minister Gabriel Attal said yesterday that he was “convinced” that it would be possible to achieve a favourable vote.
Government spokesperson Olivier Véran, and the minister for Parliament Relations have both said: “We do not want 49.3.”
The Senate has already voted through the controversial article 7 of the reform, which stipulates that the minimum pension age should rise from 62 to 64.
President Emmanuel Macron has stuck to the plans so far, saying on Monday: “This reform is an absolute necessity to pay for our retirement and to ensure the country’s stability.”
Opposition parties have also suggested that they could block the reform from being voted through by launching a petition, which would need support from one-fifth of MPs, and one-tenth of electors (4.87 million) people to pass.
Valérie Rabault, Socialist MP, told Europe 1 that this method “could block the reform from being implemented by as many as nine months”.
‘Why we are on the side of French pension reform strikers’
Lorry drivers in France called to a no-end date strike from March 5