SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

STRIKES

Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

If a one-day strike is called in France there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday - here's why.

Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
A demonstrator, wearing a jacket of the French union General Confederation of Labour (CGT), waves a light flare during a rally in Lyon, south-eastern France (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP)

There are two types of strikes in France – unlimited or open-ended strikes that run for days or weeks at a time and single-day actions.

And if it’s a one-day strike, there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday – as we have seen with the latest pension reform strikes which have been called for Thursday, January 19th and Tuesday, January 31st.

This is useful to know if you’re planning a trip and have some flexibility over your days of travel, but this doesn’t just happen by accident.

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Stéphane Sirot, a historian specialising in the sociology of strikes and trade unionism, explained to French newspaper Le Parisien that it’s all about maximising turnout.

Put simply, unions declare strikes on the days when the greatest number of people are working, in order to have the highest possible number of strikers in order to heap pressure on the employers and/or government. 

For this reason, weekends and public holidays are out because these days tend to have a reduced workforce. Workers who work on weekends, such as train drivers or waste collectors, often take Mondays or Fridays as rest days, so again there is a limited number of people who can strike.

There is another reason Mondays are out, said Sirot; “A sort of ‘battle plan meeting’ is generally held the day before a strike, in order to organise, for example, demonstration plans. However, the union leaders are not going to meet on a Sunday to refine the last points.”

READ MORE: Grève illimitée or générale: 12 bits of French strike vocab you need to know

And Fridays have a further problem: “If a renewable strike starts on a Friday and a day of action is put in place on the following Monday, people working in the public sector will have four days of pay taken away, because the administration considers that they are on strike for the whole period. In order not to deplete the finances of strikers, unions are careful not to organise mobilisations on a Friday.”

And Wednesdays? This is more of a historic reason relating to French schools giving children Wednesday afternoons off – which means that many parents also take the whole of Wednesday or the afternoon off. These days the Wednesday half-day is less common, but it still happens so unions usually avoid Wednesdays as well – leaving Tuesdays and Thursdays the optimum strike days.

You may also have noticed that demos are divided into two kinds – union-organised marches which take place during the week and those organised by political parties which happen at the weekend, usually on Saturdays.

“Union-organised demos usually go together with strikes – which is to say the stopping of the working time. In their eyes, demonstrating on weekends is not unionism,” added Sirot.

Of course, if the one-day strikes turn into une grève illimité (unlimited strike) or une grève reconductible (renewable strikes) they will encompass the whole week.

If you want to keep up with ongoing strike action in France, head to our strike section found HERE.

Member comments

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

STRIKES

LATEST: How Tuesday’s pension strike will impact Paris

Tuesday, January 31st marks a second day of mass strike action in protest at planned pension reforms - here's how the strike will impact services in the French capital.

LATEST: How Tuesday's pension strike will impact Paris

Rail workers, public transport employees and teachers are along the people who will walk out on Tuesday in the latest one-day strike as unions battle the government over plans to reform the pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Here’s how this will affect Paris – you can find full details of the nationwide service impacts HERE.

6 ways to get a round Paris without public transport

Metro

  • Lines 1 and 14, which are automated, will run as normal, but are likely to be extremely busy. Line 14 currently closes at 10pm because of ongoing works. All other Metro lines will be running a limited service.
  • Line 4 – running all day, with 1 in 2 services at rush hour, and 1 in 4 the rest of the day
  • Line 2 – 1 in 2 normal services, closing at 8pm
  • Line 6 – running from 5.30am to 9.30am and 3.30pm to 7.30pm, running only between Nation and Denfert-Rochereau with 1 in 3 of normal services
  • Line 10 – morning only, 1 in 3 of normal services
  • Line 3bis – closed

The following lines will run only during rush hour – 7.30am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7.30pm;

  • Line 3 – 1 train in 3, open only between Pont de Levellaois-Bécon a Havre-Caumartin
  • Line 5 – 1 train in 3, open only between Bobigy-Pablo Picasso and Gare du Nord
  • Line 7 – 1 train in 3
  • Line 7bis – 1 train in 3
  • Line 8 – 1 train in 3, open only between Créteil-Pointe du Lac and Reuilly-Diderot
  • Line 9 – 1 train in 2
  • Line 12 – 1 train in 4
  • Line 11 – 1 train in 3 in the morning, 1 in 5 in the evening, open only between Belleville and Maire des Lilas
  • Line 13 – 1 train in 3, open only between Saint-Denis-Université/Les Cortilles and Invalides

Bus

On average, 8 in 10 of the normal services will run.

Tram 

ON average, 8 in 10 of the normal services will run, a detailed timetable will be published on Monday evening.

RER 

RER A – 1 train in 2 during rush hour and 1 in 4 the rest of the day

RER B – 1 train in 2 during rush hour and 1 in 3 the rest of the day, stopping at Gare du Nord

RER C, D and E – 1 train in 10 

Transilien – 1 train in 3 on lines H and U, 1 in 4 on line K and 1 in 10 of normal services on lines J, N, L, P and R.

Eurostar 

The Eurostar has cancelled seven services – three from Paris to London, three from London to Paris and one from Brussels to London, but all other trains will run as normal. Find the full list of cancellations here

Trains

National and international rail services in and out of the capital will be severely disrupted, with 1 in 3 of the normal TGV services running and 2 in 10 of the normal TER services.

Flights 

There will be some cancellations of flights, but only those arriving or leaving at Paris Orly airport. The civil aviation authority says that this will affect flights arriving or leaving between Monday evening and 6am on Wednesday – anyone with a flight to/from Orly booked between those times is advised to check with their airline.

Schools

Many schools in the capital will be fully or partly closed for the day – the last one-day strike saw just under half of teachers taking part, and a similar turnout is expected this time.

Mairie

Paris’s Hotel de Ville will be closed on Tuesday, so administrative appointments will have to be rescheduled, although city services such as bin collection will continue as normal. The Communist leader Fabien Rossel has called for town halls across the country to close in solidarity with the strikes, but the final decision is up to individual mayors. The arrondissements mairies, therefore, may be open as normal.

Demos 

There will be demonstrations and marches across the country, including in Paris where a large turnout is expected. The march will begin in Place d’Italie at 2pm, marching towards Place Vauban where it is expected to end at around 7pm.

Roads will be closed along the route including  Avenue des Gobelins, Boulevard de Port Royal, Boulevard du Montparnasse, Boulevard des Invalides and place Vauban.

SHOW COMMENTS