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Strikes For Members

What to expect from Wednesday's pension strike in France

The Local France
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What to expect from Wednesday's pension strike in France
Household waste near the Eiffel Tower that has been piling up on the pavement as waste collectors are on strike against the French government's proposed pensions reform. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Wednesday, March 15th, marks the eighth day of strikes and protests in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. From planes and trains to schools and waste collection - here's what to expect.

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The eighth day of ‘mass mobilisation’ in the ongoing battle against pension reform is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15th – it is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that disruption is likely to be widespread.

It comes as a joint committee of French lawmakers examine the bill for the controversial reform of the French pension system, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

What next for France’s controversial pension reform bill?

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If you're in France or travelling to France, here's what to expect;

Trains

The French SNCF national rail services remained disrupted on Wednesday, with about three out of five high-speed TGV trains running, one in 5 Intercité trains running, and 2 in 5 of the usual TER local and regional services. 

Passengers are advised to postpone their trips if possible, and can cancel or alter tickets free of charge.

City public transport

In Paris, some workers on the RATP public transport network are striking, but disruption is expected to be limited.

On the Metro lines 2, 7 and 8 will run two out of three of their normal services while line 3 will run half its normal services and line 13 will run only between 6am and 8pm, with half the normal services.

All other Metro lines will run as normal, as will the city tram service buses and the OrlVal airport link.

RER lines will run half their normal services, but will run all day along the full length of the lines.

Other cities, like Lyon and Marseille, are also likely to see some disruption.

Air travel

France’s Civil Aviation Authority (the DGAC) has announced that approximately 20 percent of flights scheduled at Paris-Orly airport will be cancelled on Wednesday, but other airports should be unaffected by ongoing air traffc controllers' strikes.

There may be some knock-on effects on other flights, and flights scheduled to pass over French airspace may be rerouted. Passengers should check with their airline before travelling.

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Fuel and roads

Refinery workers will continue with their strikes and blockades until Thursday at 9pm, at which point workers will vote on whether or not to renew the strikes.

Regarding fuel shortages - experts are still cautioning against panic buying. Jean-Louis Schilansky, the former president of the Union for Oil Industries (UFIP), told BFMTV on Sunday that “there is no risk of widespread fuel shortages in the next few days because there are still 200 depots that can supply petrol stations”.

Schilansky told the French news channel that if strike action continues, then there could be a risk of shortages in the future but, as of now, “it is not the same situation as that of October”. 

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Ports

The CGT union representing ports and docks workers have also called for a work stoppage, which will run from March 14th until March 16th. Unions have announced that Thursday will be the most disruptive day. 

Typically strike action in this sector impacts commercial ports rather than ferry ports. 

Schools

Teachers are expected to walk out on March 15th, after the SUD Education union called for "all national education and university staff to continue and amplify the mobilisation" in a press release published on March 9th.

While primary school teachers are required to give advanced notice before walking out, secondary school teachers are not obligated to do so.

Waste collection

The CGT union that represents waste collectors has declared a ‘rolling’ strike. This union has the most support among the waste collectors in Paris – uncollected bins and bags of rubbish piling up on street corners have been seen in certain areas.

Unions have called for strike action to continue until at least March 20th.

READ MORE: IN IMAGES: Rubbish piles up in streets of Paris as strike continues

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Strike action has hit about half of Paris’ districts, including the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 20th arrondissements - other districts with private contracts for waste management have been either spared or less impacted by strike action.

Energy and electricity

Rolling strikes have already impacted parts of France's energy sector, and industrial action is expected on Wednesday as well.

"This week ahead [actions] will be even stronger", Sébastien Menesplier, secretary general of the CGT Mines-Energies, told BFMTV on Sunday.

Localised actions have been conducted during previous strike days, such as cutting off power to the Olympics construction site in Saint-Denis, and targeting the 16,000-population town of Annonay in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region - the home of France’s labour minister Olivier Dussopt, who has become the ‘face’ of the pension reform - on March 7th, with serious power cuts leaving some 2,000 homes without electricity for the afternoon.

Demos

Several demos are planned in towns and cities across the country for Wednesday.

On Saturday, which marked the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work, midday counts by French police suggested that about 963,000 people protested.

The largest demo on Wednesday is expected to be in Paris.

What’s next?

After Wednesday's action, unions have called for demonstrations in front of France's Assemblé Nationale on Thursday in Paris. Several sectors also plan to continue with 'rolling strikes' in the days ahead.

You can keep up to date with strike action in France at The Local's "Strike" tag.

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

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