by Clara Bauer-Babef and Sofia Mandilara
Paris is bracing for another in a series of multi-sector strikes on Thursday as France’s emerging protest movement gains ground, only a day after general strikes paralysed its northern neighbour Belgium and Greece in a sign of increasing strain on Europe’s workers shouldering the continent’s cost-of-living crisis.
In continuation of an emerging protest movement fuelled by inflation and rising petrol costs, France’s main trade union, CGT, is calling on workers across sectors to join the Thursday strike, demanding higher wages and opposing pension reform. Disruptions are expected to affect public transport the most.
Transport in the Paris region will be “very heavily disrupted,” the state-owned transport operator RATP announced, saying Thursday will have “Zero metro, zero RER”. Seven metro lines will be completely closed, while the others will only operate at peak times.
For trains, French national state-owned company SNCF said it does not expect many of its workers to attend the strike, therefore, the service is unlikely to be significantly impacted.
The education sector could also join the strike, with several cities, including Le Havre, announcing that extracurricular activities will be limited.
Meanwhile, a press release reads that Thursday’s strike could also affect the health sector as the CGT’s health branch filed a strike notice with health and social establishments, including in the private and public sectors.
Since the end of the summer, there have been a series of strikes protesting job insecurity and demanding higher wages as prices continue to rise.
In France, prices saw a 6.2% year-on-year increase in October, according to the latest figures released by the statistics institute INSEE. Sectors particularly impacted by increases include energy (19.2%), fresh produce (16.9%), and food (11.8%).
The previous one-day strike, held on 27 October, had relatively low attendance. However, this Thursday, CGT Confederal Secretary Celine Verzeletti expects “150 to 200 demonstration points” across France, according to BFMTV.
The French strike comes only a day after Belgium’s two main airports saw significant disruption during the country’s general strike on Wednesday, with the country’s capital surviving on bare-bone public transport provision worsening the city’s notorious traffic problem.
Brussels airport cancelled 223 or 60% of flights as a cautionary measure, while Charleroi airport shut down altogether, scrapping 120 commercial flights.
Further afield, Athens also came to a standstill on Wednesday as the Hellenic republic’s households, hard-hit by record-high inflation, took the streets of the capital, Thessaloniki and other small cities around the country in protest.
“Workers’ participation both in the strike and in the rallies was the largest in recent years”, Dimitris Bratis, Secretary General of the Civil Servants’ Confederation, told EURACTIV.gr, adding “workers formed one river of anger and desperation” in the city centre.
Police figures suggest that around 16K people rallied in Athens, with some instances of violence erupting in the aftermath of the protests as the police moved in to arrest 10 people.
A recently published report by the Labour Institute of Greek Workers Confederation (INE-GSEE) revealed minimum wage workers had lost approximately 19% of their purchasing power since April 2022, while households earning €751-€1.100 saw a 9-14% decline.
Meanwhile, in the UK, National Health Service workers are set to strike for the first time in history, demanding higher salaries and better working conditions.
*first published in: Euractiv.com