French unions call for new strikes and street protests on Tuesday

Unions have called for another day of mass strikes and protests on Tuesday December 10th as industrial action against planned pension reforms continues to cause major transport disruption.

French unions call for new strikes and street protests on Tuesday
Photos: AFP

After a joint meeting on Friday morning, a group of unions issued a call for more mass protests  and strikes around the country on Tuesday December 10th.

Those workers who had already declared 'rolling' strikes that began on Thursday – such as rail workers and air traffic controllers – were called on to keep their strikes going until Tuesday.

The unions who represent workers on the RATP Paris public transport network had already announced that their strike will continue until Monday, December 9th.

The joint meeting, attended by France's biggest unions, released a joint statement saying that “the ball was now in the government's court” to compromise over the proposed pension reforms.

Unions claim the reform, which the French government has not published yet, will leave millions of workers with lower pensions and having to work beyond the official retirement age of 62.

READ ALSO Flights, ferries, trains and buses – your strike questions answered



Catherine Perret, Confederal Secretary of the CGT, said: “Everybody in the street on Tuesday, December 10th, for a new day… of strikes, actions and protests.

“The employees have made their point. It is a question of withdrawing the universal reform project by point and opening negotiations to improve the current system,” she said.

Some strike actions will continue between now and Tuesday, particularly in the transport sector.

French president Emmanuel Macron was described as “calm and determined' by an aide on Thursday.

But several ministers including health minister Agnes Buzyn and education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer were meeting union leaders for discussions over the proposed pension reforms.

More meetings will take place between ministers and unions on Monday.

Protests around France on Thursday – the first day of the strike – drew 800,000 people on to the streets, and the unions hope to repeat that turnout on Tuesday.

READ ALSO 'We have no choice' French unions explain their decision to strike

Despite some annoyance at the inconvenience, the strikers are still enjoying broad support from the public, with recent polls showing an average of 60 percent of French people supporting to strike.

Although one poll for Ifop found that 76 percent of respondents back the idea of pension reform, 64 percent do not trust the government, which widely seen as 'pro business', to pull it off.

Christian Mahieux, leader of the rail union Sud-Rail, said: “It is true that, because we do a socially useful job, when this work suddenly stops, it is a real inconvenience for the community,” admits the former Parisian railway worker, who worked at the Gare de Lyon ticket office in 1995.
However he added that this does not prevent  “strong support and understanding from the population”.
Many union activists see the current strike in comparison to similar mass strike action in 1995, which brought the country to a virtual halt for three weeks before the government abandoned its proposed pension reform.
Christian Mahieux added: “For us, 1995 was part of the direct legacy of the strike that lasted from December 1986 to January 1987.  This is where “democratic practices that have made a mark, such as general assemblies, service by service, and the opening of discussions to political subjects.”

Member comments

  1. Well, they would, wouldn’t they. Did anyone seriously believe this is a ‘one day’ general strike?

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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.