Behind the French strikes

A few days before the holidays, French transportation companies such as Air France, Corsaire, SNCF (the French railway company) and local city transportation companies have announced that they are going to be on strike during the holiday. 

Did you know that strikes have a specific meaning for the French and are deeply rooted in their culture? 

At this period of the year, strikes are recurrent and do not surprise the French anymore. Indeed, they are part of their everyday life! 

If you want to know more about current or future French strikes, and plan ahead not to be in a bad situation, there is even a specific website about where and when there are strikes in the country :

France is the country where there was the highest number of unworked days in the European Union in 2020 and 2021, according to ETUI (the European Trade Union Institute). 

The reason why strikes are so popular is because the right to be on strike has been in the French Constitution since October 27,1946. 

This is the French strike ritual: demonstrations, negotiations and an agreement which can be found in a few hours or in a few months.

Strikes are a tool to pressure the employers or the government to react in favor of their employees. 

Salaries and working conditions are the most frequent reasons to be on strike in France. 

For instance, the demands of the employees of SNCF are an increase of the salaries, more hiring to be able to work correctly. SNCF has difficulties to hire, the national railway company does not make the French dream anymore because of the low salaries. The inflation due to the war in Ukraine is bringing more and more strikes. 

Despite the fact that strikes are recurrent, some French are tired of them especially when they depend on public transportation. Travelers are hostages in the middle of negotiations in which they are not even involved.

French employees have the right to be on strike, whether they work for the public sector or the private sector. A strike is legal as long as it is collective, planned and has professional demands. There is no legal duration for a strike, it can last for a few hours or a few months. An employee does not need to be part of any union to be on strike. It must be announced at least 5 week-days before its start in the private sector. 

Some industries must provide a minimum service: airline companies, hospitals, and when a teacher from the public sector is on strike, the city must provide day care for the children. 

However, some employees do not have the right to be on strike: employees from the national police, the militaries, the CRS employees (the French riot police), the prison guards and the civil servants who work for the penitentiary system, the transmission employees who work for the domestic affair minister and the magistrates. 

During the strike, the contract of each employee is suspended. In the private sector, the employee is not paid during the time they are on strike. In the public sector, the way of being paid or not paid depends on each industry. 

An employer does not have the right to hire a temporary employee to replace an employee who is on strike but an employer can decide to give a long-term contract to a new employee during the strike. 

Strikes are a sensitive topic in France. The close future strikes will certainly prevent many travelers from having a smooth journey to their holiday destination. The more annoying the strike is, the more impactful it is,  but It is a French fundamental right that cannot be denied.