Travel strikes, face masks, wood heating aid: The week ahead in France

The European Court of Human Rights will also rule on whether Éric Zemmour’s 2017 conviction for inciting hatred based on religion undermined his freedom of expression

We look at what the week ahead has in store for people in France
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Rail strike comes to an end

TGV train services have been slightly disrupted this weekend because of a signal worker strike called by the SUD-Rail union.

Today (December 19) is the last day of the strike notice and SNCF has not issued any warnings about delays or cancellations.

There were some cancellations, especially on the TGV Atlantique network, yesterday and on Saturday, but today none are expected.

Official discussion on mask-wearing

Today government body the Covars (Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires) will present an update on the Covid situation in France, including a view on whether or not mask-wearing should be brought back.

This comes as several senior ministers have called on people in France to begin wearing a face covering in crowded areas like public transport once again.

Read more: Covid France: wear masks around the at-risk and on transport, says PM

European Court of Human Rights rules on ‘Zemmour v France’

Tomorrow (December 20), the European Court of Human Rights will return its judgement on the ‘Zemmour v France’ case.

Polemicist and former presidential candidate Éric Zemmour has appealed to the court against a 2017 conviction for ‘inciting hatred based on religion’, insisting on his right to freedom of expression.

This conviction relates to comments Mr Zemmour made on television when he spoke about an “invasion”, a “colonisation” and a “struggle to islamicise a country”, stating: “I think that we should give them the choice between Islam and France.

The French state has argued that Mr Zemmour was abusing his freedom of expression by making these comments and to such an extent that he should lose the benefit of that freedom. It is basing this argument on Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids “the abuse of a right”.

Winter solstice

Wednesday (December 21) is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. In Paris, the sun will rise at 08:37 and set at 16:56.

After Wednesday, the days will begin to get longer again, a few minutes at a time.

Air France strike

Air France cabin crew will begin strike action on Thursday (December 22), following a notice from the SNGAF and Unac unions.

The strike notice will run until January 2 with the full scale of the industrial action being announced 48 hours in advance. However, the airline management have said that there will not be cancellations and passengers will be able to get to their destination.

Read more: Christmas travel France: latest on air and rail strikes

Air France cabin crew are protesting against the fact that their collective employee agreement on working conditions, pay and progression, which expired in October, was extended by a note from the company management.

“The bosses can modify this note unilaterally from one day to the next, which could mean changes to our working hours or our pay, without consulting us,” Unac’s Anne Vildy said.

The airline has promised that it will not change anything until negotiations on a new agreement have come to an end, which will happen in March 2023 at the latest.

It has also presented unions with a court ruling stating that such a note cannot be changed. “In reality, the company has issued a note from the management lasting for an indefinite period, which gives us no protection,” Sébastien Portal of SNGAF argued.

Wood heating aid applications open

Thursday will see the opening of applications from the public for government support with wood fuel bills.

People who use logs or wood pellets to heat their homes will, depending on their household income, be able to request a payment of €50-€200.

The government has stated that the wood fuel aid will be paid to people who earn less than €2,260 for a single person living alone, and €4,750 for a couple with two children.

People who use wood pellets will get €100-€200 depending on their income and people who use logs will get €50-€100.

This aid will be available in combination with the exceptional chèque énergie being paid to 12 million households this winter.

Applicants should go to this website from December 22 to fill in their request with their tax number and proof of their wood fuel purchases.

Read more: Electricity, gas, wood, oil: do you qualify for heating aid in France?

Ruling handed down over fake French lawyer

Also on Thursday, a court in Cusset, Allier, will issue its judgement on a man from Limoges who posed as a lawyer and who was arrested while in the middle of a speech for the defence in that same court in January 2021.

The prosecution has called for a year-long prison sentence for Sébastien Buisson, who quickly aroused suspicion from real lawyers when it became clear that he did not know the vocabulary related to his supposed profession.

It soon became clear that Mr Buisson was not a registered barrister and that his name had been mentioned in relation to several scams for which he had been convicted.

UK Border Force strike

UK Border Force officials will begin eight days of strike action on Friday (December 23), affecting Gatwick, Glasgow, Manchester, Heathrow (Terminals 2-5) and Cardiff airports, as well as the Port of Newhaven.

This means that passport checks for people arriving at these transport terminals from France and elsewhere will likely take longer than usual.

Heathrow bosses have said that the airport is doing everything it can to prevent flights from being cancelled, while airlines have been advised by Border Force to cancel up to 30% of their services.

British Airways has stopped selling tickets for inbound flights on the strike days. However, EasyJet, for example, has said that it will continue to run all of its scheduled flights.

Military personnel, civil servants and volunteers are being trained to check passports at the affected airports and ports.

Strikes will take place on December 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31.

Christmas Day and ‘Boxing Day’

Christmas Day is a public holiday in France – although it is also on a Sunday this year. Restaurants, bars and shops will be closed all day.

Boxing Day is only a public holiday in Alsace and Moselle.

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