Strikes For Members

LATEST: French unions announce end of Channel tunnel strike

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LATEST: French unions announce end of Channel tunnel strike
This photograph taken on December 21, 2023, shows cars lining up at the entrance of the English Channel Tunnel during a strike led by Eurotunnel employees in Calais, northern France. - . (Photo by Bernard BARRON / AFP)

French unions have announced the end of their wildcat strike that blocked all rail traffic between France and the UK on Thursday leading to cancellations of Eurostar and Le Shuttle services.


The surprise strike at Eurotunnel operator Getlink blocked Eurostar trains as well as Eurotunnel Le Shuttle trains carrying trucks and cars as the peak holiday travel season got underway.

In all some 30 Eurostar trains were cancelled on Thursday.

The tunnel was set to reopen on Thursday evening with Le Shuttle services between Calais and Folkstone set to resume on Thursday evening. Eurostar services were set to start running again on Friday morning. It wasn't clear what the knock on effects from the strike action would be for travel over the coming days.

"The crisis Eurotunnel industrial action is coming to an end... Channel tunnel activity will resume this evening," said union delegate Franck Herent, citing negotiations with management that "bore results that satisfy us".

One union source told Le Parisien newspaper: "Everyone is going back to work."

Announcing the end of the strike French MP Alexandre Holroyd thanked French Transport Minister Clement Beaune for his "quick action and intervention to resolve the situation".

LATEST: How long will the Channel Tunnel be closed for?

The strike was related to a dispute over end of year bonuses for staff.

Getlink said French "trade unions rejected a bonus of €1,000 end-of-year bonus announced by management and have called for a strike to demand it be tripled."

A joint statement from the six French unions representing Getlink staff (FO, CGT, Sud-Rail, CFE-CGC, CFDT and SACDC) said: "This strong mobilisation comes as no surprise.

France-UK Christmas travel - what are the alternatives?

"For several months now, all the trade unions have been alerting general management to the terrible deterioration in the social climate."

Getlink in July reported record operating profits of €159 million. 

Unions had met with bosses on Thursday afternoon after launching the strike that took everyone by surprise.

French Transport Minister Clement Beaune described the closure as "unacceptable" and demanded an immediate end to strike action.

"I call on everyone to be responsible and ensure good conditions for traffic and holiday departures," he said.

Eurostar told passengers that is has no information on whether Friday services will be running. It advised those travelling to make alternative plans.

Le Shuttle which runs car and freight trains through the tunnel had also advised passengers to make alternative travel arrangements, which caused frustration for many.

One passenger stuck in queues to get across the Channel tweeted: "How are we meant to get out of these queues without any coordination from you so that we can make alternative transport arrangements?"


The announcement of the cancellation of train services sparked dismay in train stations, with people scrambling to change their reservations on their phone.

"We've been sitting here at Calais for 3.5 hours," said one Twitter uses named Andrew. "Totally shitty way to do industrial action by Eurotunnel staff. You can put pressure on your employer without screwing over families stuck in cars, trying to get home for Christmas without any warning."

"So travelling back now and now literally five minutes ago, we've got an email to say that Eurotunnel staff are going on strike and it looks like we can't get a train today," said Nick, 45, as he was trying to return to Britain from the northern French city of Lille.


He said the email he received gave him little hope of making it back to London today.

"They've told us that because it's December, it's going to be really difficult to now get a booking with the limited space."

There were reports of Eurotunnel staff handing out ferry tickets for passengers unable to take the train at Folkestone. 


Eurostar employees meanwhile announced at the Gare du Nord station in Paris on a megaphone that all trains for the rest of the day were cancelled.

At Calais in northern France, long queues of vehicles of more than a kilometre formed at the entrance to the French terminal where cars and trucks board trains to reach the English port of Folkestone on the other side of the Channel.

The chaos at the Port of Dover had a knock on effect on the surrounding roads, and police initiated the 'emergency protocol' on the M20 motorway.



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