December strikes in France: Transport firms to draft in reserves but will ‘sacrifice’ weekend services

French train operator SNCF and Paris public transport provider RATP are drafting in reserve drivers in an attempt to offer at least a skeleton service during unlimited transport strike that begin on December 5th.

December strikes in France: Transport firms to draft in reserves but will 'sacrifice' weekend services
Many Metro lines are likely to be closed. Photo: AFP

Both transport companies will draft in their reserve drivers to use in emergencies. These reservists are often either former drivers who have moved on to office jobs but are still qualified to drive trains.

French media are reporting that both companies are planning to make the weekend of December 7th and 8th a 'sacrifice weekend' with very few services running, in order to concentrate their resources on running a skeleton service during the week.

READ ALSO Flights, trains and buses – your questions answered about December strikes

The reserves were last used in Paris in September during a one-day strike in order to retain a skeleton service. Although many Metro lines did not run at all, there were about 40 percent of suburban RER services running and around 30 percent of buses.

This time matters are made more complicated by the length of the strike, which is currently 'unlimited'.

Unions are beginning the action on Thursday, December 5th, but many have issued unlimited or renewable strike notices and union officials say they will stay out for as long as they need to.

READ ALSO 'Strikes are the only way to achieve progress in France' – unions justify unlimited strike action

Transport companies are already planning ahead for more than a one-day strike with SNCF and Eurostar not taking bookings between December 5th and 9th and Lyria – which runs international train services – offering free exchanges or refunds until December 11th. 

Many French workers have already opted to take December 5th and 6th as holiday or claim back time owed in lieu, so transport companies are reporting that Monday, December 9th is likely to be the most difficult day as commuters return to work and peak time lines struggle to cope, so are concentrating most of their resources on that day.

It means that for anyone trying to get around in Paris on the weekend of December 7th and 8th services are likely to be very limited indeed.

READ ALSO Six was to get around Paris without public transport

Fortunately there are plenty of other options – expanded cycle lanes, bike hire schemes, electric scooters or walking. And RATP has entered into a partnership with some bike hire firms and VTC firms like Uber and carsharing oferin deals to commuters. 

At only 9km across, Paris is a very compact city, perfect for walking, seeing the sights and generally soaking up the atmosphere.


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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.