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Strikes in France – what to know

France strikes - taken from The Economist (link below)

France strikes – taken from The Economist (link below)

Essential reading from The Economist (May 27)
Article here focuses on all that is going on in France.

Update May 27 from US Embassy Paris:

Full link to travel advisory

“…The following strikes have been announced for the week of May 30:

Rail – The national unions which represents rail workers renewed their call for strikes limiting rail services along the TVG, RER and SNCF networks. An “unlimited strike” is scheduled to start at 9 am on Tuesday, May 31 for a period of at least 24 hours.

Paris-area Public Transportation – The union representing the Paris metro area transportation (RATP) has called for an “unlimited strike” starting on June 2 of all public transportation services, including the Paris metro, buses, and RER trains.

Air – Air traffic controllers have also called for strikes Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 which could result in delays or cancellations of flights originating in France…”

By now, you have probably heard that France has been undergoing rounds of strikes and protests over the past couple months. This is in large part due to proposed labor reforms. Of course most of you know that strikes and public outcry are a way of life in France that most people tend to accept with a shrug.

The Local France has an interesting piece on this cultural reality, as well as countless publications in the past including BBC and Slate. Even The Onion got in on the humor with a fake French protest image back in 2005.

But this time seems to be different: these are arguably the strikes with the most impact in 20 years. Taken with the ongoing “state of emergency” that France has put into place since the November terrorist attacks (and have extended), France has a palpable undercurrent of tension.

For now, what you should know about the strikes: 
These strikes are affecting transportation, oil refineries, nuclear power stations and more throughout the country. The BBC outlines the main points of the proposed reforms here along with more coverage of the action. I’ve laid those out at the end of this post.

The Economist also has an interesting piece on the strikes – anticipating action throughout the summer.

Another useful guide is from the great folks at The Local. Local resources in France for tracking news updates include the SNCF website, which currently states that traffic should start resuming to normal May 27 but to keep abreast of updates. Their travel agency Voyages SNCF also has a helpful resource for train travel updates.

You should also stay abreast of airline travel through your local airline. Aéroports de Paris does have general updates as well for Paris Orly and Paris CDG traffic.

BFM TV, Libération, France 24 and Le Monde are also great resources.

At the time of this being published, there have been clashes reported by protestors in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and other major cities. Your local embassy should be the best resource for expat nationals living and traveling in France for up to date security information. The US Embassy, for example, has contact info here and updates on their Twitter feed.

Want to brush up on your French travel vocabulary? Try About.com or FluentU.

If you have travel plans to France or are thinking of moving there in the coming year, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so – just do your research and travel intelligently. I have lived in France for 30% of my entire life at different times as an intern, student, grad student, English teacher and employee. It is a place that is dear to me, and I would love for you to also have those life-changing experiences.

Travel smartly, safely and avoid protest areas. Take a lesson from my French friends and enjoy life, drink some wine and sit back to see how this evolves. C’est la vie, enfin.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

September 23 France strikes: Your city-by-city survival guide

September 23rd, 2010 3 comments

Well, after the Sep 7 strikes, the unions have called for another day of protests in order to get the government to cede some more territory in the reform on pensions and retirement. But Sarkozy has vowed to not budge on the key issue – raising the age from 60 to 62 for retirement and from 65 to 67 for full pension access. As Labor Minister Eric Woerth was quoted by Reuters:

“We haven’t changed. We are very firm on the core of the reform, which is (the retirement) age.”
The government says the legislation is essential to erase a growing deficit in the pay-as-you-go pension system, curb rising public debt and preserve France’s coveted AAA credit ratings, which enables it to borrow at the lowest market rates…”If you don’t reform it, it simply won’t be viable and we won’t be able to pay French people’s pensions,” Woerth said.

This is turning out to be quite a fierce battle, and even though Sarkozy has been speaking around the country showing some concessionary measures (for arduous jobs like firemen and policemen, and taking into account the situations of working mothers), the core of the reform is on the table. It has been adopted by the National Assembly and is awaiting approval in the Senate.

So the unions are once again preparing for a day of “action” and even speaking about strikes in early October possibly touching weekend traffic. That’s just great. This is like protesting against the force of gravity and economic common sense. The unions are like little whining children. Let the adults do the work. Tomorrow’s strike will affect schools, the post office, some banks but especially public transport systems around the country.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

With all of these disruptions, what you are planning on doing? Luckily in Paris, there will be 75% traffic on buses, so I’ll be OK. But for those opting for the Velib bike rental system in Paris, here is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Velib has been preparing for a day where they see a significant increase in bike usage (20-30% more on Sep. 7 than normal days, over 130,000 rentals per day).

UPDATE FROM BBC:

The walkouts are expected to hit transport the hardest. Only one in two trains will be running nationally and disruptions to services had already begun on Wednesday night….About half of flights at Paris Orly are to be cancelled, as well as 40% at the capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and 40% at other airports throughout the country, said the DGAC civil aviation authority…

….The pension reform bill has already been passed by France’s lower house of parliament. It will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.

France’s retirement age is lower than many countries in Europe. Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, providing they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years – although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.

The government says it will save 70bn euros (£58bn) by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.

Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed who might struggle to hit the 41.5 year requirement….

September 7th day of strikes: What you should know city by city

September 6th, 2010 2 comments

Oh là là. Pas encore. Especially for striking against raising the retirement age, a necessary evil if the French government is to not go broke and be able to finance its public debt. They’ve announced raising it from the current 60 years old to 62 over the course of 8 years. If you’re in France on Tuesday September 7th, look out for heavy disruptions in public transport, among other services (post office, schools…). RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Figaro gives a good breakdown too, en français.

Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux,Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre.

Former Socialist Party Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has stated that “if the French come out in numbers to demonstrate in the street, the government will have to take that into account.” More on this tomorrow…I know I have an important meeting on the other side of Paris tomorrow morning for work, might risk the RATP system, Vélib it or taxi…we’ll see. Bon courage à tous!

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