Strikes, fires and political upheaval – what to expect in France this week

Strikes, fires and political upheaval – what to expect in France this week

It might have seemed like it from the headlines, but actually the whole of France is not on fire, and for most people life is continuing fairly normally.

There is, however, significant disruption from strikes and demos and that is set to continue this week.


The big strike day this week is Tuesday, but some unions have called ‘rolling’ strikes which means that disruption is likely all week. On the railwaysSNCF says that 4 in 5 of the high-speed TGVs are running on both national and international lines, while 2 in 3 of the normal services are running on local TER services.

The ongoing air traffic controllers’ strike means that flights in and out of Paris Orly and Marseille airports will be disrupted, with around 20 percent cancelled. Other flights should be unaffected by cancellations, but there may be knock-on effects including delays.

Blockades of oil refineries continue and shortages of petrol (gasoline) and diesel are gradually increasing at service stations around the country, although there are big differences between regions. In total 15 percent of service stations in France are reporting shortages, but that rises to 30 percent in the worst-affected areas of Brittany, Pays-de-la-Loire and the greater Paris Île-de-France region.

MAP Where in France are fuel blockades causing shortages

If you’re in Paris you may have seen the volume of uncollected waste slowly decrease in recent days as waste collectors return to work, although city bosses estimate it will take at least another week to collect the roughly 10,000 tonnes of waste that were piled on the streets at the height of the strike. However, on Sunday waste collectors in four arrondissements that were previously unaffected by the strikes – the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th and 18th – announced strike action.

If you’re in the Deux-Sèvres département in south-west France, you may see further protests at the site of the ‘mega basins’where violent clashes occurred at the weekend. This is unconnected to pension protests, but has become a further flashpoint for clashes between police and radical protesters.

In the political worldthe government is apparently attempting a ‘reset’ after forcing its legislation through parliament without giving MPs a vote, with plans to meet leaders of the opposition parties and invitations to unions to talk about non-pension related issues including plans for ‘profit-sharing’ laws.

Meanwhile the Constitutional Council is scrutinising the pension reform law – if it is approved there are no more legal or political mechanisms to stop the reform being enacted.


This is another day of mass strikes and demoscalled by all eight of France’s union federations.

The detailed strike timetables will be released later on Monday, but there is likely to be significant disruption on trains and public transport in the cities, while some flights are also likely to be cancelled.

There will also be demos in towns and cities across France – on the last mass strike day on March 23rd more than a million people took to the streets – although trouble flared at the end of the demos in cities including Paris, the vast majority of the demonstrators were entirely peaceful.

Demos generally start at around 2pm along pre-advertised routes and finish in the early evening. If violence flares – as seen during last week’s protests when small groups of black-clad protesters set fire to bins and street furniture and clashed with police – it usually happens in the early evening as the main demos finish and peaceful protesters head home.

Unions have previously announced dates for the next strikes on the evening of strike days – keep up to date with our strike calendar.


After the big strike day most people will go back to work, but rolling strikes are set to continue in several industries, subject to further votes of approval from union members.

Trains and planes are likely to see further disruption, albeit more limited than Tuesday’s.

This could continue into the weekend, although much depends on what announcements unions make about further days for strikes.

Unions representing oil refinery workers are also determined to continue with the blockades, despite the threat of ‘requisition’ to force workers back. The shortages at filling stations are cumulative, so it’s likely that these will get worse if the blockade is maintained at refineries.

You can keep up to date with the latest announcements and detailed strike timetables in our strike section HERE


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