Workers in France stage nationwide strike for higher wages
Protesters stand in the smoke of flares during a demonstration, Tuesday, October 18, 2022 in Marseille, southern France. | AP

French workers took part in a nationwide strike today to demand higher wages to keep pace with the soaring cost of living.

The strikes, principally in schools and transport, are an extension of the industrial action that has disrupted France’s major refineries, causing severe fuel shortages.

Transport Minister Clement Beaune said today there were severe disruptions to national rail services with half of all trains cancelled, and Paris’s suburban train and bus services were also heavily hit.

Workers in the civil service, healthcare, and the food and energy sectors also walked out as the unions mounted the biggest challenge to President Emmanuel Macron since his re-election in May.

A representative of the FNME mine and energy union, which is affiliated to the CGT union confederation, said earlier this week that its strikes have already hit work at 10 French nuclear power plants and delayed maintenance work at 13 reactors.

And today’s mass walkout comes after workers at several refineries operated by energy giant TotalEnergies voted to extend their four-week-old strike action in defiance of the government’s instructions to go back to work.

While the oil giant struck deals with two other unions last week, members of CGT are holding out for a 10 per cent pay rise, citing the cost-of-living crisis and huge profits made by the firm.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday: “The time for negotiations is over.”

The government has already ordered workers at the Mardyck depot in the north of France to return to work and it is threatening to use the same strong-arm tactic with workers at the Feyzin depot in the south-east.

Three out of seven of the country’s oil refineries and five major fuel depots have been severely hit by the dispute.

Ahead of the today’s action, CGT general secretary Philippe Martinez told L’Humanite that, because Mr Le Maire had challenged the union, “blocking the country is perfectly acceptable.”

And from today’s picket line at Porte d’Italie in Paris, Mr Martinez said: “All workers must receive a wage increase … Workers will decide whether to renew the strike or not.”

About 130,000 people also took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest against soaring prices.

The leader of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) Jean-Luc Melenchon marched alongside this year’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature Annie Ernaux.


Morning Star
Morning Star

Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain. Morning Star es el diario socialista publicado en Gran Bretaña.