Unions across France have been in an ongoing battle against plans to increase the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. Previous trikes this year included railway workers and airport staff with 30% of flights from Paris’s Orly airport cancelled. The biggest demonstration yet started yesterday, bringing the country to a complete standstill.
Besides the amplitude of the sectors involved, this time, unlike previous walkouts, the strikes are taking place on a rolling basis. Being announced beforehand for the 7th and 8th of March, the action has no foreseeable end date as workers vote at the end of each day whether to continue demonstrating or not. “With no fixed end date, unions hope rolling walkouts have the potential to disrupt daily life and threaten the economy so severely that it forces the government into submission”, Euronews reports.
Services are affected across all transport modes, rail, bus and aviation, with severe disruptions caused by delays and cancellations. France’s national rail operator SNCF and Paris’ public transport operator RATP have warned of “major disruptions” in the capital. Eurostar has also issued warnings to its passengers and reduced the service for the 7th and 8th. As many as 8 trains were cancelled each way between Paris and London with an additional two headed to Amsterdam and another two headed to Brussels also being scrapped.
Air traffic controllers (ATC) are joining in as well, the French civil aviation authority recommending airports to reduce capacity by up to 30% to mitigate the impact of last minute cancellations. In addition to domestic flights however, the ATC strike affects overhaul, impacting routes that merely pass through French airspace until 7am on Friday, 10 March.
Even with the pre-emptive 30% schedule reduction, airlines are still expecting heavy disruptions, warning passengers of likely delays and cancellations. Additionally, travellers are advised to take into consideration extra time or arrange for alternative means of reaching the airport, considering the public transport walkouts.
Besides transport, the education and industrial sectors are also joining the strike. The complete closure of schools was called for by the country’s seven major teaching unions, with protests expected to reach their peak on the 9th of March, when high school and university students will join the action in a “Youth Mobilisation” day.
Nuclear power plants have already started reducing their capacity on Friday, bringing down France’s electricity supply in an attempt to give a blow to the country’s economy in the midst of the energy crisis. Unions have warned that the actions will continue “until we win”.