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Protests, flight cancellations and fuel: What to expect this weekend in France

The Local France
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Protests, flight cancellations and fuel: What to expect this weekend in France
A protester (C) wearing an orange jacket of the French CFDT trade union holds a placard reading "49.3 reasons to be angry" during a demonstration (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

As citizens across France express their anger over pension reform, the country has grappled with more protests and rolling strikes, impacting key sectors like waste collection and fuel. Here's what to expect over the next week.

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Protests have erupted across France in recent days, after French president Emmanuel Macron's government pushed pension reform through parliament, using the controversial Article 49.3 tool to bypass a vote in the Assemblée Nationale.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested, as some protests have turned violent and there have also been allegations of police violence.

Unions and opposition leaders have promised more action in the coming days, with hopes of pushing the government to withdraw the unpopular reform.

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Here is what you can expect for the days ahead in France:

Saturday

There are no mass demos planned on Saturday but smaller, sporadic demos are likely across France.

Trains - In terms of transport, France's national rail service, SNCF, has announced that rail travel will continue to be disrupted throughout the country due to strike action. On Friday, three out of four high-speed TGV trains ran according to normal schedules.

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

Those who plan to travel by rail on Saturday should received a text message or email from SNCF by Friday evening if their train is affected by delays or cancellations.

Paris public transport has been largely running as normal outside the planned strike days, but police do sometimes close stations for security reasons if there are protests ongoing. To keep up to date, you can download apps such as Bonjour RATP or Citymapper.

International lines, such as Eurostar, have not yet announced any cancellations for the weekend. Only one train was cancelled on Friday. Eurostar has said they will update this page if any new cancellations are to be announced.

Flights - France's civil aviation authority (DGAC) has asked airlines to pre-emptively cancel 15 percent flights arriving and departing from the Paris-Orly airport, and 20 percent from the Marseille-Provence, Bordeaux, and Lyon airports in the face of possible weekend strike action. Typically, flights cancelled are primarily domestic, rather than long-haul. 

Fuel and driving - oil refinery workers are continuing their strikes and blockades and about 15 percent of French fuel stations were short at least one type of fuel on Friday morning. However, the situation varies geographically - France's south, southeast and west have been the most impacted so far, while the south-west and north-eastern parts of the country have been less affected.

READ MORE: MAP: Where in France are blockades causing fuel shortages?

Union representatives have said they hope to "hold out until the reform is withdrawn", meaning action is likely to continue through the weekend.

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To keep track of traffic forecasts in France, you can use the country's traffic watchdog, Bison Futé. On Friday, forecasts for the weekend were 'green' (for normal).

If you are driving in the Paris area, the government site Sytadin also updates with real-time estimations.

Waste collection - Members of the union representing public garbage collectors for the city of Paris voted to renew their rolling strike until at least Monday, March 27th.

As of Friday, there were still around 9,000 tonnes of refuse on the cities' streets, which represents a slight decrease from the previous figure of 10,000 tonnes. Local authorities have begun requisitioning workers, but progress has been slow and Paris officials estimate that it may take up to two weeks to clear the garbage off the streets.

Sunday

On Sunday, similar disruptions can be expected on French national rail services. If your train is cancelled or delayed, you should receive information from SNCF at least 24 hours in advance. 

As for flights, the DGAC has asked airlines to cancel 33 percent of flights at the Paris-Orly airport, and 20 percent at the Lyon-Saint-Exupéry and Marseille-Provence airports.

READ MORE: Should you cancel a trip to France because of strikes and demos?

Monday

France's Civil Aviation authority (DGAC) asked airlines to cancel 20 percent of flights at the Paris-Orly airport and the Marseille-Provence airport on Monday. Trains may also see some disruption but other services such as city public transport are likely to run as normal.

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There are no large demos or marches scheduled for Monday.

Tuesday

The eight main union federations announced a new day of mobilisation on Tuesday, March 28th. As such, you can expect demos across French cities, and that national rail services and city public transport will be disrupted. During the last day of action, on March 23rd, at least one million people across France took to the streets, according to estimations by the French government.

Precise details of disruptions will be released on Monday - check HERE for the latest information.

READ MORE: Reader Question: Can I take a taxi during a French strike?

Wednesday - Friday

Depending on the outcome of strike action on Tuesday, there may be continued spontaneous protests across the country later in the week. 

As several unions have announced that they will continue action until the reform is withdrawn, rolling strikes in oil refineries, waste collection, and transport could continue, should striking workers vote to do so.

Keep an eye on our strike section for all the latest developments.

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