Farmers, taxis, metro, EDF, teachers - strike calls grow in France

Anger over pay, policies and new ministerial appointments at top of increasing list of issues

More and more unions are calling for strike action. Photo for illustrative purposes only
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The number of unions announcing strike action is growing in France, with teachers being the latest group set to walk out.

It comes after public transport workers in Paris filed a seven-month long strike notice (they will not strike for all of this period but maintain the right to do so on individual days during this timeframe), taxi drivers, EDF workers and others prepare for protest action.

In addition, agricultural workers have been blocking roads across France since January 20, and despite government concessions, show no signs of relenting.

Each sector has its own specific reasons for striking, but in many cases this centres on dissatisfaction with the government - either of ministers or their policies, working conditions and what they see as a lack of fair pay.

Strikes are not being planned in unison, and are unlikely to reach the levels seen in 2023, when millions took to the streets to protest (eventually implemented) changes to France’s pension system.

However, the increasing strain on services, and the need to deploy additional security forces, in particular against the farmers, is causing headaches for the government.

Teachers announce major action

Leading teacher’s union FSU-SNipp has called for a major day of strike action on February 1, with 40% of teachers expected to walk out nationally.

In some locations such as Paris, up to 65% of teachers will join protests, and in departments including Ardèche and Pyrénées-Atlantiques, more than 50% will join strike action.

Up to 130 schools will be closed in the capital, and elsewhere, dozens may be forced to close in each department if enough teachers strike.

Although the strikes are in part over working conditions, the union has largely called the strike to show their anger over the appointment of the new education minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.

“As soon as she took office, the minister made misleading and insulting remarks about state schools and their staff. The FSU-SNUipp has been denouncing this harmful policy for a long time,” the union’s statement read.

“Working conditions for staff and learning conditions for pupils have deteriorated… [Teachers] are no longer being replaced, and by the start of the 2024 school year, the elimination of 650 positions in primary education will lead to multiple class closures across the country.

“The union is calling for a massive strike to demand resources, respect and pedagogical freedom. We will be proposing follow-up action to this day to ensure that our demands are met,” it added.

Mrs Oudéa-Castéra was embroiled in a scandal immediately after taking the position, which revolved around the reasons she pulled her son out of state school and enrolled him in an elite private school.

She is alleged to have lied about the reasons for the switch, as well as making disparaging remarks about the public education system.

Read more: French education minister did not lie - ‘reality proved her wrong’

In addition, teachers are also rallying for what they see as a defence of ‘laïcité’, after further comments by the minister implied that one reason for her children’s private school’s superiority was that it is a Catholic school.

Read more: Laïcité: a bedrock of modern France

In Paris, teachers will hold a march from the Jardin du Luxembourg towards the Education Minister’s office in the 7th arrondissement. Demonstrations in other towns are also likely.

Farmer protests continues

The Connexion is covering the farmer protests with daily updates, including an overview of which major routes are blocked.

This morning (January 31), farmers continue to block eight motorways around Paris, several points on the A7 in the south and the A68 near Toulouse, along with many other roads around the country.

Read more: January 31: See which roads are blocked by French farmer protests

Many unions and workers have announced support for the farmers, including fisherman, lorry drivers, butchers, and multiple unions in both the private and public sector.

As of yet, however, strikes made in tandem with the farmer protests have not been announced.

Read more: Taxis, lorry drivers: will other workers join French farmer protests?

Who else is striking?

Besides teachers, workers from the RATP, which manages Paris’ public transport network, also announced a strike this week.

The CGT-RATP union, one of the largest representing public transport workers in the capital, filed a strike motion between Monday February 5 and Monday September 9 – seven months long, covering the length of 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the city.

The main cause is disagreements between the workers and RATP leaders, particularly over wage levels in 2024.

The notice does not necessarily mean services will be impacted or cancelled for the entire seven months, but that day-to-day members of the union may strike, with the level of disruption not known until the evening before.

Taxi drivers went on strike earlier this week, employing rolling blockades in many major cities to limit access to other traffic.

They were protesting a new ‘healthcare car-sharing’ rule included in the 2024 social security budget, which obliges them to carry several patients at a time on trips to the hospital.

Multiple strikes of this kind have taken place since the announcement of the changes – including in December 2023 – and more days of action are expected from drivers.

Yesterday (January 30), EDF called on workers to strike to protest working conditions. Further strikes may be announced for February.

Public transport workers in Reims are going on an unlimited strike from February 5, which will see all tram services and most buses come to a halt.

You can find a list of upcoming strikes on the ‘c’est la grève’ website (this is not an official website but it aims to list all upcoming protests in France).

Read also

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