What is behind Thursday’s protests in France?

A total of 170 protests are planned across France on Thursday with workers across all sectors demanding a salary hike to cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Teachers take part in a mass strike in France.
Teachers take part in a mass strike in France. Another day of action, this time across all sectors, will take place on Thursday. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Teachers are among those set to protest on Thursday as part of a mobilisation interprofessionnelle (cross-sector demonstration) for a salary increases. 

170 demonstrations and marches have been scheduled across France according to the CGT, one of the country’s biggest unions which has organised the demonstrations along with FO, FSU and Solidaires unions.

“No one can ignore the social and economic context, the price rises of essential products from food to energy and finally, the cost of living,” said the union in a statement. 

France experienced an inflation rate of 2.8 percent over the course of 2021 and workers say their budgets have been squeezed. 

“If in certain sectors and businesses protests and negotiations have led to salary increases, there are too many cases where negotiations have hit a brick wall,” said the CGT. 

“It is urgent and essential to act in unity through striking and protests for an immediate increase of all salaries in the private and public sector, payments for young people in training or looking for work and to improve the pensions of retired people.” 

The previous two Thursdays have seen strikes from teachers, but unions predict that this week only 20 percent of teachers in French primary schools and kindergartens would be on strike. This is a significant drop-off from two weeks ago when 3 out of 4 such teachers walked out in protest of the government’s handling of the pandemic in schools. 

When and where? 

The CGT has made an interactive map which shows where the protests will take place and at what time. Its members will march alongside other major trade unions such as the FO, FSU and Solidaires. 

In Paris, a march has been scheduled to begin at 11:30am at the place de la Bastille and will proceed slowly towards the Economy Ministry in the 12th arrondissement. 

This will likely hold up traffic in central Paris. 

Regional train services will be slightly disturbed according to SNCF. In Ile-de-France, one in three trains will run on the RER B, while three in four trains will run on the RER A, C and D lines, as well as the Transilien line H. 

Aid for living costs

Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced a number of measures to help offset the cost of inflation, including a tax break for drivers, a freeze in energy prices and a special energy grant for poorer French households. 

But unions say that this is not enough and left-wing candidates in the 2022 presidential elections including Communist Fabien Roussel,  Green Yannick Jadot and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon have said that they will be joining the marches. 

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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.