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France train network has national strikes (again) April 26th

French unions that bring together employees of the rail system, SNCF, is staging strikes around the country today. This is the third such strikes in the past two months. Paris’ RER network is also impacted.

More info here in French. A message from the US State Department’s Paris Embassy is below as well. You can follow news in English on France 24 here. They are running until 8am local time on Wednesday 4/27.

Consult your travel agency or SNCF’s train tracking site for news on delays or cancellations to your travel plans.

France 24 said:

Only half of high-speed TGV services will be running, SNCF said in a statement, along with just 40 percent of all regional TER trains.

Just one in three of SNCF’s Intercités trains will run, while half of all trains on the Paris region’s Transilien network will be cancelled.

RER rail services in the capital are also set to be significantly disrupted, with one train in two running on the RER line B, one in three on line C and D and two in three on line E. RER line A is set to run as normal.

International services are set to be largely unaffected though night trains will not be running, SNCF told the AFP news. It advised passengers to avoid travel or seek alternatives for their journeys wherever possible.

The U.S. Embassy in France informs U.S. citizens that several national unions representing SNCF train and service employees intend to hold a nationwide strike on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 to protest proposed changes to working conditions. Getting through train stations could take longer than usual and lines at automated machines are likely to be long. There could be resulting cancellations and delays to scheduled trains.

Travelers are advised to verify the status of their trains prior to arriving at the station and to allow extra time.

Please consult these websites for information on your train the day of the strike:

www.infolignes.fr

http://www.sncf.com/fr/prevision-trafic

www.sncf.com/en/passengers

http://www.sncf.com/en/news/timetables-traffic-updates

Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

French airport strikes continue, though will likely improve

December 20th, 2011 1 comment

Great news out of France for travelers (including me tomorrow):

Several security service teams working at airports around France are striking to receive more benefits and a pay raise.

This has affected Lyon St. Exupéry Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Roissy CDG), Toulouse and this may soon expand to Nice, Bâle-Mulhouse (Basel-Mulhouse) and Rennes. Video below.

The Aéroports de Paris website states the following at 3pm today: “Paris-CDG: Industrial action by security companies, 3 pm update Paris-CDG Terminal 2 : 15 mn wait time at security checks, up to 60 mn at peak times. No flight cancellations. Paris-Orly : normal situation.”

Normally the strikes before were also in terminals 1 and 3 of CDG. The Lyon website says strikes should continue to cause delays today but should not result in cancellations. To be confirmed.

Now the French government is looking into having a law obliging airports to have minimum service during strikes. They’ve also named 2 official mediators to try to resolve the crisis.

For the latest updates, call your airline and please check the respective airport websites and France 24 for latest information.

I’ll be writing a bit less during the holidays. Safe travels and Happy Holidays!

French strikes set for Nov. 23, but don’t expect large turnout

November 22nd, 2010 No comments

The contested pension reform has become French law, but some unions (CFDT, CGT, FSU, Solidaires, Unsacette) and other opponents to the measure are insisting that the strikes must go on. But it likely won’t have any important impact, except for annoying commuters and parents. However, traffic will not be nearly as disrupted as other days. It has been a long road of reform and protest, as France24 writes.

Le Volontaire has a list of strikes organized around France, by départment (and city).

Left-wing newspaper L’Humanité unsurprisingly calls this an “unjust reform” and supports the strikes, with a list of cities participating (similiar to the one above, with some variation). In Paris, the action will start at metro Opéra at noon, pass by la rue du Quatre Septembre, la Bourse des Valeurs, palais Brongniart and finish at place de la Bourse around 2pm.

On the other side of the political spectrum, business newspaper Les Echos (like the French Wall Street Journal) is calling this the “last-ditch stand” (baroud d’honneur) of unions.

According to the SNCF’s site, TGV, Téoz and Intercité trains will not be affected. However, certain regional TER trains could be (look by region). So far the Paris area RATP website is not updated with strike information, but will likely have delays on certain bus lines that go to métro Opéra.

THIS JUST IN: The following bus lines will be interrupted with irregular intervals between about noon and 2pm tomorrow in Paris: 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 39, 42, 48, 52, 53, 66, 67, 68, 74, 81, 85, 95 and Roissybus. This is especially important for those planning on taking Roissybus from Opera to CDG Airport. If you think this may disrupt your plans, you can opt for RER B at about an equal cost (around 9 euros), or taxis will run you about 35-40 euros. The

For updates on RER suburban line trains, you can see this site. Lyon’s TCL transport system will not be affected. For updates on other cities’ transport systems, you can check this link from a previous strike day. You can check the status of trains in major stations at this site.

French retirement reform passes; Fillon kept as PM; strikes for Nov. 23

November 14th, 2010 No comments

I write for Bonjour Paris and this week have this article about the French retirement reform passing. Be sure to check out Bonjour Paris.

Excerpts from my article below:

After two months that saw many days of strike action (sometimes marred by violence) by unions, schools and others opposed to the French government’s retirement reform, it has become law. President Nicolas Sarkozy had given ground on certain areas, such as easing pension requirements for working mothers and those who work in arduous, labor-intensive jobs.

But he did not give in to union demands to keep the retirement age at 60 and the age for full pension at 65, instead remaining determined to raise these to 62 and 67, respectively. Business newspapers give an in-depth look into the details of the pension law (in French).

In the end he succeeded, despite strike action, because of many factors including a special parliamentary procedure that did not allow for debate on each amendment and thus facilitated voting on the proposed bill in the Sénat and Assemblée Nationale. Another reason is that strikes in France do not have the power they used to, with a legal minimum service in schools and in transportation making life less difficult for everyday people. The Paris metro operated during the heat of the strike.

He succeeded in this reform where past French presidents attempting it had failed because of giving in to strike pressure. But what has this done for his popularity and chances of being re-elected in 2012?

The BBC reports that it has certainly undermined his approval ratings.

In the midst of this lack of popularity, Sarkozy is planning a TV address on Nov. 18 to announce a cabinet reshuffling, with Prime Minister François Fillon being kept in place (having been reappointed to the position today after resigning from it only yesterday) but other ministers to be changed, a traditional move by the presidency to regain popularity. But the unions are still calling for strike action Nov. 23. Although aware that they will likely accomplish nothing against what is already law, they are already preparing action on other measures to keep momentum going, like work insurance, complementary pensions, youth unemployment problems, etc.

For now, Sarkozy has won the battle. But will he win the war? We’ll have to see. The definitive answer will come in 2012.

French Constitutional Council approves retirement reform

November 9th, 2010 No comments

After several weeks of protest and the passing of the retirement reform by French Parliament, the Constitutional Council (a bi-partisan panel that examines the constitutionality of proposed laws) has approved of the retirement reform in France. As the Figaro writes, they approved of all the major tenets of the reform (retirement age from 60 to 62, pension frm 65 to 67, etc.). The Sages (“wisemen”) who make up the council rejected Socialist complaints, asserting that the reform did not infringe rights of equality. There were 13 amendments not approved, pushed back to further debate related to reforms on resident work doctors, but all the major parts of the retirement reform were adopted.

You can read more about this decision at the Nouvel Obs, and a great guide and analysis of the main points of the reform can be found here.

Next step: President Sarkozy will sign this into law. Nouvel Obs says that Sarkozy has 15 days to sign this into law, in accordance with the French Constitution. His advisor Raymond Soubie estimated before that it would be around Nov. 15.

Bonjour Paris newsletter: French government news, strike update

November 8th, 2010 2 comments

I write for Bonjour Paris and this week I have a piece about the French government cabinet reshuffle with updates on the strike movement (which seems to be dying down as the retirement reform bill is set to become law). Check out other articles on the site as well, on such subjects like French wine, hotel recommendations, Obama-Sarkozy relationship and more. Excerpts below from my article. I’ll be sure to update you on any strike situation that could affect you.

Indeed, the strikes on Nov. 6 saw significantly less participation, with unions divided about the future of the movement. Figaro asserts that the movement has loss all momentum. Le Point writes that as turnout was lower than previous days, tension is high among unions about the future. They will decide Monday on whether or not to carry out further action. I will let you know what they decide.

In the wake of several weeks that have seen strikes around France in protest against French retirement reform proposed and enacted by President Sarkozy’s government, the “movement” has calmed down significantly since the somewhat violent clashes between youth and police in Lyon and elsewhere a couple weeks ago.

Where do we stand now? The pension reform law has been voted by Parliament (both Assemblée Nationale and Sénat) and is now awaiting final approval by the Conseil Constitutionnel (the Constitutional Council, a bi-partisan board that evaluates the constitutionality of proposed laws) before becoming official law.

The unions called for a strike on Saturday Nov. 6, but following the relatively low turnout for protests compared to past demonstrations, they are thinking about the future of other days of action. Even if the reform becomes law, despite its “injustice” in the eyes of unions, they say they would continue to demonstrate and protest in policies linked to purchasing power, working conditions and other issues for them. The French Left is now considering actions to capitalize on the frustration of the streets, according to Libération, to prepare for the 2012 presidential elections.

Meanwhile the government is preparing for a reshuffle of ministers, with rumors surrounding the Prime Minister François Fillon and whether or not he will be replaced by Jean-Louis Borloo (current Minister of Ecology and Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning).

In the conservative Figaro, a poll finds that nearly 87% of respondents want Fillon to stay on. Indeed, his level of popularity has remained higher than Sarkozy for a long time now. Many French see him as intelligent, calm and composed as opposed to the hyper-active and micro-managing President.

One thing is for sure. France is the midst of significant social change that will have an impact in years to come, and for many French, 2012 could not come soon enough. But there is a lot of time between now and then, and Sarkozy could make a come-back. That looks unlikely at the moment.

French reform likely to pass despite threat of ongoing strikes

September 24th, 2010 No comments

In the wake of the second round of strikes on Sep. 23 after Sep. 7, unions are calling for continued protest against French government plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, and 65 to 67 for full pension access, among other details in a large, long-overdue reform of the retirement and pension system.

Labor Minister Eric Woerth said that the strike movement was not as big on Sep. 23 and was in effect waning. Of course there was much divergence on analysis of participation, between 1 and 3 million protesting (from police estimates to union estimates). This is often the case.

As the reform text will most likely be passed in the Senate Oct. 5, after having already been approved by the Assemblée Nationale, most French people realize that these protests will not change the government’s core policy proposals. In a Figaro poll, nearly 85% of people out of more than 31,000 said that the “retirement reform would come to fruition despite the strikes and protests”.

But the left is not backing down and Socialist Party head and Lille mayor Martine Aubry has vowed that if the Socialists win the presidency in 2012, they will bring retirement back to 60. For now, the unions are speaking about October strikes possibly affecting weekend traffic. They do not want to give up just yet.

We’ll see how this plays out. In the event of continued strikes, stay tuned to American Expat in France.

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….

French strikes: the reactions

September 7th, 2010 No comments

How did you do? For me, Paris metro 7 line was doable, but the 3 in Paris this morning was rough. I got off at an unpopular stop (Malesherbes) for my meeting, so I was a bit unpopular as I was against the opposite doors. Ah well, c’est la vie.

(Thibault Camus/Associated Press) Commuters at the Saint Lazare train station in Paris on Tuesday morning.

Le Figaro features some interesting pieces:
-how unions and police estimate demonstrators (2.5 v 1.12 million).
-unions warning there will be more strikes (surprise, surprise. What clowns).
what was motivating strikers

Foreign press:
The Economist
BBC with video
New York Times

Excerpt:

…The pension problem in France is real. If unchanged, the number of pensioners will rise 47 percent between now and 2050. The French state pension system today is running a deficit of $14 billion; by 2050, it will be $131 billion, about 2.6 percent of projected economic output.

The change from 60 to 62 for a minimum pension will not solve all of the problems, and already represents a political compromise by Mr. Sarkozy.

But he must also find other savings in the budget, which this year has a deficit of 8 percent of gross domestic product. He has promised European allies — and the investors in the bond markets — to reduce that to 6 percent next year and to 3 percent by 2013, which leaves many economists skeptical that he can do it without raising taxes. Another Sarkozy reform, to eliminate a level of regional government in the bureaucrat-heavy French state, has been shelved for now in the face of opposition from the Socialists, who dominate local government….

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