SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

STRIKES

Striking in France – what are the rules and do strikers get paid?

French workers do have something of a reputation for striking, but do they really do it more than any other European country? And can any disgruntled employee walk out?

Striking in France - what are the rules and do strikers get paid?
The right to strike is ensured by the French constitution. But do workers still get paid when striking?. Photo: AFP

Who can go on strike?

As a general rule, all French workers have the right to strike. The right to strike is guaranteed by the French Constitution. 

Although striking is an individual right, it needs to be exercised collectively by at least two employees as a means to further professional demands.

This means that one single employee cannot go on strike alone (except during national strikes) and that a strike cannot be used for political purposes.

Certain public sector workers are not allowed to strike, including:

  • Emergency services like certain types of police officers and emergency medics 
  • Judges
  • Army personnel (which includes firefighters in some areas)
  • Prison guards
  • Some civil servants in the Home Office (personnels des transmissions)

Do strikers get paid? 

Public sector workers lose 1/30th of their gross monthly salary for every day or partial day that they strike, so in effect they lose roughly a day's pay every time they strike.

For public sector workers – which includes SNCF employees and the Paris public transport system RATP – this also includes weekend days and holiday – so anyone striking from Monday to Monday would lose seven days pay, even if they did not normally work weekends.

The deduction is also made even if they employee does not strike for the full day.

The exception is hospital staff, who lose less (1/23th of their monthly salary) if they go on strike for just one hour.

The rules are different for private sector employees who generally lose their salaries the days they go on strike. 

During long-running strikes, unions often run a cagnotte – a pot or fund – which collects donations to give to striking workers who are suffering financial hardship. 


Nurses and hospital staff went on strike in September to call for a salary increase and better work conditions. Photo: AFP

Can only union members strike?

No. Anyone working in France can go on strike, but public sector strikes need to be declared by at least one union.

France is the country with the highest number of trade unions but the lowest percentage of union membership (around 8 percent compared to a European average of about 25 percent). 

As for strikes in the private sector unions don’t need to be involved at all.

Despite the low levels of union membership, French people do indeed strike more than their neighbours. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute. As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

What are the rules?

There are significant differences between the public and private sector when it comes to the legalities of striking. In both cases, violence is forbidden and strikers are required to respect non-strikers, meaning they are not allowed to prevent others from going to work. 

Private sector

In the private sector, a strike can be declared at any time, even in cases where workers have not attempted to reconcile with their employer. 

Employees are not obligated to alert their employer in advance. To declare a strike, they simply need to ‘collectively stop working and state a list of professional demands (about salaries, work conditions or other)’. This list needs to be given at the moment the strike begins.

Public sector strikes in France need to be declared by at least one union. Photo: AFP

Public sector

In the public sector, the general rule is that a written strike warning must be issued five days prior to the strike. This warning needs to state the motives for the strike as well as the start- and end date (if there is an end-date, if not that needs to be stated too).

Unions and management are required to negotiate during the five days following the strike warning.

Teachers

For strikes involving kindergarten or elementary school personnel, the rules are slightly stricter. Unions need to provide a written document stating the strikers’ demands as well as the persons participating in the strike, eight days prior to the strike.

After unions have notified the management they have to negotiate for three days before making a final decision on whether or not to strike. If the unions decide to continue with the strike, they need to provide a written document stating the motives for the strike and which schools will be affected, as well as when the strike will begin and end (if there is an end-date, if not that needs to be stated too).

Teachers need to tell their superiors whether or not they intend to strike 48 hours in advance.

Transport sector

The transport sector is subject to the strictest strike regulations. Following a 2008 law, trade unions and management need to consult for two weeks before any strike. Employees are legally obligated to give a 48-hour-notice if they intend to join a strike.

The law was made to enable transport companies better to inform passengers and to organise a minimum service ahead of a strike.

This is why rail operator SNCF has said it will publish revised strike timetables on December 3rd, two days ahead of the upcoming ‘unlimited’ strikes.

How long are workers allowed to keep the strike going?

There’s no legal limit to how short or long a strike can be. Everything from one hour to several weeks is allowed. Strikers may also do a method of on-and-off striking, for example working one day out of five for a certain period of time.

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

SHOW COMMENTS