EDF workers strike over French plans to keep electricity bills down

EDF workers have walked out in protest at French government plans for the company to sell a greater percentage of its nuclear-produced electricity at the regulated reduced price, claiming customers and tax payers will ultimately foot the bill.

Employees in masks at the nuclear power plant in Paluel, Normandy
Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP

The government, which has an 84 percent stake in the electricity supplier, has instructed the company to increase the volume of electricity sold by the company at the regulated Accès régulé à l’électricité nucléaire historique (Arenh) price by 20 terawatt hours (TWh), in a bid to keep consumer’s energy bill prices down.

It will contribute, with a cut in the electricity tax, to reducing the increase in the regulated sales price of electricity on February 1,  from more than 30 percent to 4 percent, including tax. 

But the plan will cost the company ‘between €7.7bn and €8.4bn, depending on market prices’ in 2022, according to Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire.

And it has come at a time when the group is already struggling with new delays for the new nuclear power plant at Flamanville in northern France and with a system problem at a number of reactors.

FNME-CGT spokesman Fabrice Coudour said four unions are “protesting against this scandalous decision to increase the Arenh ceiling, which will spoil EDF’s role and even organise the destruction of EDF”.

Meanwhile, the company’s CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said he was “shocked” by the measure in an internal letter to managers. It has been reported that the plan will force the company to redraw its latest financial forecasts, and therefore its investments. 

Employees and pensioners are also demanding an immediate catch-up of “at least 10 percent of their salaries and pensions”, according to the CGT, which claims that pay and pensions have not kept pace with inflation over the past 10 years.

“There are employees on strike at Enedis sites, hydroelectric production sites, fossil-fired power stations …  there are reductions in production without any impact on users, because this is not our goal,” a CGT spokesman told AFP.

Demonstrations are planned at a number of electricity production sites, and striker deposited electricity meters in front of the building of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CRE), which unions have accused of “endorsing the plundering of the public service”.

RTE, which operates and maintains France’s electricity network said the strike could be linked to a drop in production on Monday night “of 750 MW” on high and medium voltage lines, although this is unlikely to affect domestic power supplies.

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Strike to ‘strongly disturb’ Parisian bus and tram services on Monday

Strikes over working conditions means that bus and tram lines in the French capital will be running at 60 percent capacity on Monday, with further disruption expected later in the week.

Strike to 'strongly disturb' Parisian bus and tram services on Monday

A fresh wave of strikes at the RATP – the company responsible for operating public transport in Paris – will result in widespread disruption on Monday. 

While Metro and RER services will run as normal, bus and tram services will operate at a significantly reduced capacity. 

In a notice to passengers published on Sunday evening, the RATP said that some bus lines would be closed completely. Only two out of three buses will run on the lines that remain open during the daytime. The night bus service will run as normal. 

On average, three out of five trams will run on Monday. 

Normal traffic is expected on tramlines T5, T6 and T7. 

On T1, only one out of two trams will run, with a ten minute interval between each shuttle. The line will only run between Gare de Noisy and Gare de Gennevilliers. Operation times are limited to 06:00-11:00 and 15h:00-20:00. 

On T2, only one out of two trams will run during rush hour. The line will connect Porte de Versailles and Puteaux with shuttles running every ten minutes during rush hour and every 20 minutes outside of this. Between Pont de Bezons and Charlebourg, shuttles will run every five minutes during rush hour and every fifteen minutes outside of this. 

T3a will operate one out of every two trams, exclusively between Pont du Garigliano and Porte d’Italie. The line will run from 06:30-11:00 and 16:30-21:00. 

T3b will operate half of all trams, exclusively between Porte de Vincennes and Porte de la Chapelle. Traffic will only run from 06:00-10:30 and 15:30-20:00. 

The T8 line is by far the most disrupted with only one in every four trams running. The line will only operate between Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris et Epinay–Orgemont. Trams will run between 06:00-10:00 and 16:00-20:00. 

Further strike action is expected on Wednesday, although RATP are yet to disclose the scale of that later disruption. 

What is behind the strikes? 

Bus and tram workers are striking over proposed plans to open up RATP services to subsidiary companies, with changes to working conditions.

As of January 1st, 2025, all bus will be transferred to the subsidiaries or competing companies who won bids issued by the regional transport authority, Île-de-France Mobilités. 

RATP plans to put the new working conditions into effect – those that would have been set to apply in 2025 – as early as July. These changes would impact at least 18,000 drivers. 

Specifically, drivers will fall under the “territorial social framework” (CST), the minimum legal framework for working hours, which will require 35 hours of work per week (and 37 hours per week for select drivers). Currently, the RATP’s rules regarding working hours are more advantageous, with the average driver working 33 hours a week (excluding overtime and travel time). 

Union management has been fighting against these proposed changes for over a year, having already held a strike March 25th, which impacted over 30 percent of bus lines in the Paris region.

Now, they calling for mobilisation to “defend their working conditions” again.