French workers strike over inflation: Some transport delays expected

Today’s interprofessional strike, which is calling for pay and pension rises, will mainly cause disruption to trains in eastern France

An interprofessional strike is taking place in France today (March 17). Photo for illustration
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An interprofessional strike is taking place in France today (March 17) as unions call for pay and pension rises in response to soaring inflation.

The action is not expected to cause widespread disruption in France, although train services will be limited in the east with only one in two TGV trains running towards Strasbourg, Reims and Metz/Nancy. “Some changes should [also] be expected on Occitanie” TGVs, but TER trains will remain unaffected across France.

Ile-de-France’s RATP transport workers have already planned a strike for March 25, so the network should be operating normally today.

What is the strike about?

The strike is being supported by the CGT, FSU, Solidaires, Unsa and several other unions.

In a statement, the CGT said: “To address the rise in the cost of living, we support a general pay increase in the public and private sector, starting with the lowest salaries.”

Inflation rates were at 3.6% in February, according to national statistics institute Insee, which predicts that they will have reached 4% by the end of this month amid the conflict in Ukraine. It could then go up to 4.5% between April and June.

If the government had not placed a cap on household energy tariffs, Insee estimates that inflation rates could have gone as high as 5% by February.

The current rates mean that the buying power of an average French household fell by 1.4% in the first quarter, but “inflation bonus payments offered robust support to household revenue around the end of 2021,” said Insee’s Julien Pouget.

Read more:New website to help 1.3m who have not yet had French inflation bonus

The government announced earlier this week that the index used to calculate civil servant pay will be reevaluated, but this did not push the unions to call off the strike. The government did not outline how much salaries would increase, and unions have since called for the “immediate launch of negotiations” and pay rises of at least 4%.

President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of his intention to raise the French retirement age to 65 if reelected may also fuel today’s protests.

Read more: Retirement at 65 (not 62) and €1,100 monthly pension: Macron’s plans

Demonstrations in Paris

This is the third day of industrial action since the beginning of the inflation crisis which began last year.

However, the two previous strikes did not attract a huge number of participants, with 160,000 people taking part in demonstrations on October 5 according to the CGT (85,400 according to the government), and 150,000 people (or 89,000 according to the authorities) on January 27.

Read more:Workers strike across France calling for pay rises amid inflation

It is not yet known how many people are expected to strike on this occasion.

Protests are expected to take place in Paris today, starting at 14:00 at Place de la République, and the CGT has said that there will also be “more than 150 meeting points” throughout France.

Presidential candidates Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise, left-wing), Fabien Roussel (Communist Party) and Philippe Poutou (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste, far left) have also announced their presence.

The demonstrations will take place at the same time that President Macron presents his election campaign to the press in Aubervilliers.

Céline Verzeletti, confederal director of the CGT, told Le Figaro: “There is great worry” over the current geopolitical situation, but “that in no way erases the difficulties being encountered on a daily basis [by French people], whose buying power is falling lower and lower amid inflation.”

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