French trade unions started a nationwide strike on Tuesday to demand higher salaries amid a cost of living crisis and high inflation.
The strike is an extension of the weeks-long industrial action that has disrupted France’s major refineries and put petrol stations’ supply in disarray across the country.
It also has the potential to be a major problem for Emmanuel Macron’s government.
The strike is mainly affecting the public sector but some Eurostar services between Paris and London have been cancelled. Civil service workers’ unions have also called for joining Tuesday’s strike, with possible disruptions in schools.
French public railway operator SNCF said that traffic on local connections was down 50 per cent but that there were no major disruptions on national lines.
Trade union leaders are hoping some workers will be energised to strike by the government’s decision to force some people to go back to work at petrol depots to try and get the fuel flowing again last week – a move which critics claim put in jeopardy the right to strike.
French government spokesperson Olivier Veran said more requisitions of staff could occur on Tuesday, as drivers keep queuing in front of petrol stations.
“There will be as many requisitions as deemed necessary… blocking refineries, when we have reached an agreement on wages, this is not a normal situation,” Veran said.
The latest strikes come after thousands of people took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest against soaring prices.
The leader of left-wing party La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Melenchon, has called for a general strike.
French left parties call for a rally against rising prices
The strikes are happening at the same time as the French government is set to pass the 2023 budget using special constitutional powers that would allow it to bypass a vote in parliament, prime minister Elisabeth Borne said on Sunday.
The CGT union has called for continued walkouts into a fourth week at TotalEnergies, despite the oil company reaching a deal including seven per cent increase and a bonus on Friday with other, more moderate, unions.
It wants a 10 per cent pay increase, citing inflation and the firm’s huge profits.
Source by www.independent.co.uk