There’s going to be a big strike in France on Wednesday, March 9th.
All of the newspapers are talking about it and the US State Department sent an email to all of the Americans traveling in France to announce the strike and warn them of possible protests to avoid.
The workers strike will affect transportation services across the country. I’ve had to touch base with my students to find out if they will work from home or try to get into the office. On days with transportation strikes, some businesses allow their employees to telecommute. At other companies, many employees who normally take public transit simply drive to work instead, which can cause horrible traffic jams.
The thing is, it won’t affect me all that much!
One of my students is going to stay home, so we’re going to have class by Skype. That will be nice for me, because it means I won’t have to run around the metro in the morning.
During the strike, all the Parisian transportation lines have set schedules
Transportation unions must announce their service schedules 48 hours before they strike. The media outlets publish these schedules, and each transportation service also publishes the schedules on their websites.
The local trains run on a set schedule, which is less frequent than usual, but still timely. I’ve downloaded the schedule they published, and when I leave for my afternoon classes, I’ll be able to rely on it. Plus, since so many people will telecommute or drive to work, there won’t be the typical commuter crowds filling the train cars.
The subway system will function normally
Once I get into the city on the local train, I can hop on the metro, which will be running without any disturbances. So, other than sending a few emails to my students and holding one of my classes by Skype, the strike hasn’t affected my life all that much.
High speed train travel will have serious interruptions
For travelers going to and from Charles de Gaulle airport, there will be half the trains that usually run on the local train line. High speed trains and local trains within France will have the greatest impact, while travel to other European countries will be only slightly impacted.
Why are they striking?
While I don’t pretend to completely understand the complexity of the situation, I know that there are a lot of different groups who have decided to all protest on the same day.
The transportation unions had previously decided to join together on March 9th to protest low salaries and recent layoffs. Some local train companies have had serious impacts in the past year on their staffing and pay schedule due to reduced ridership. Yet, one specific Parisian transportation unions is striking to get salary increases because 2015 was a record year for their company.
As you can see, the various transportation unions are each demanding different solutions to solve the very specific problems faced by their company in the local economy where they are located in France.
Proposed labor law reform
Then, after the Labor Secretary, Myriam El Khomri, recently proposed a huge reform to France’s labor laws, a lot of other unions, student groups and political parties chose to schedule their protests on the same day as the transportation strikes.
Most of the planned demonstrations in the streets will be related to the proposed labor law reforms, and will primarily be attended by political activists and students.
What happens after March 9th?
The transportation strike is scheduled to end in the early morning of Thursday, March 10th, but street protests could continue until the government finally resolves the issues raised regarding the proposed labor law reforms.
The government has decided to speak to all of the protesting groups before announcing their next set of revisions to the law, so demonstrations could pop up intermittently until then, and then after as well.