Why are French firefighters setting up camp in a Paris square?

If you head to one Paris square this week you will see an unusual site - an encampment of French firefighters complete with beds, canteen and a blood donor centre.

Why are French firefighters setting up camp in a Paris square?
Photo: AFP

The week-long camp, beginning on December 2nd, is an industrial action with a difference from French firefighters protesting about their pay, pensions and conditions.

Firefighters, like emergency medics and certain types of police officer, are banned from striking, so instead members of the Sud-SDIS union have hit upon the idea of a week-long occupation of the Place de la République in Paris to register their anger about proposed reforms to the pension system that have sparked mass walk-outs across France, beginning on December 5th.

READ ALSO 'Unlimited' strikes in France in December: What you need to know

“We hope to have between 200 and 300 firefighters a day, not to mention the support of the population,” Rémy Chabbouh, the general secretary of the South, told French newspaper Le Parisian.

One of his colleagues added that they were “fed up with marches that often end in a mess and tear gas” and so had decided to try something new.

A march in October in Paris by firefighters calling for better pay and conditions descended into violent clashes with police

The unions hope to have several hundred firefighters in the square at any one time.


The Sud-SDIS, whose members come mainly from large cities such as Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes, Nîmes or Arras, is not the biggest firefighters' union and does not represent firefighters from Paris or Marseille, who come under a different regime and are part of the military.

Unions hope to capitalise on public support by inviting members of the public to go and join their 'firefighters village' which will be in the Place de la République in central Paris from December 2nd to December 6th.

READ ALSO Why are French firefighters protesting in the streets?



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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.