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Scuffles Break Out As France Begins Nationwide Strikes For Wages

French police stand guard as students block the entrance of the Lycee Montaigne high school to protest as part of a nationwide day of strike in Paris

Trade unions begin multi-sector industrial action over salaries amid high inflation, adding to the weeks-long strike in oil refineries.

Protesters have clashed with police and broke shop windows as French trade unions began a nationwide strike to demand higher salaries amid the highest inflation in decades, one of the biggest challenges to President Emmanuel Macron since his reelection in May.

Eleven people were arrested in Paris, the interior ministry said in the early evening on Tuesday, adding that 107,000 people nationwide followed the protest call from left-wing parties and some unions, including 13,000 in the capital. The CGT trade union said 70,000 people took part in the march in Paris.

Tuesday’s strike, which primarily affects public sectors such as schools and transportation, is an extension of the weeks-long industrial action that has disrupted France’s major refineries and put petrol stations’ supply in disarray.

Regional train traffic was cut by about half, seeking to capitalise on anger at decades-high inflation to expand weeks of industrial action at oil refineries to other economic sectors.

Suburban services in the Paris region and bus services are also affected, operator RATP said, but the inner-Paris metro system should be mostly unaffected.

The effects were visible at Paris hub Gare de Lyon on Tuesday morning, with packed suburban trains disgorging floods of passengers onto the platforms every 15 or even 20 minutes.

“I’ve got a two- or three-hour trip today, rather than an hour and a half normally,” said commuter Yera Diallo.

Workers walk past TER regional trains at the SNCF depot of Hellemmes-Lille on the eve of a nationwide day of strike and protests for wages and against requisitions at refineries in France
Workers walk past TER regional trains at the SNCF depot of Hellemmes-Lille on the eve of a nationwide day of strike 

Beyond transport workers, unions hope to bring out staff in sectors such as the food industry and healthcare.

Trade union leaders are hoping workers will be energised by the government’s decision to force some of them to go back to work at petrol depots to try and get the fuel flowing again, a move some have said may jeopardise the right to strike.

The CGT union notably has called for continued walkouts into a fourth week at TotalEnergies, despite the oil company reaching a deal including a 7 percent increase and a bonus on Friday with other unions. The CGT is demanding a 10 percent pay rise, citing inflation and the firm’s huge profits.

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