The ‘official’ date for the strike which will undoubtedly affect train service (SNCF) and Metro service (RATP) is November 14th, 2007. France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is conveniently (for him) out of town, and out of the country in Washington DC. Today’s Le Parisien reports that Prime Minister Francois Fillon is determined not to budge or cave into labor unions’ demands.
If you happen to be in France in the next few days, you may not want to take the November 14th date as the final word on WHEN the strike begins.
Last night we took the train from Gare St. Lazare in Paris to Bernay in Normandy. The train left the station fifteen minutes behind schedule (which is VERY unusual for train service here). When French trains are running, they are impeccable. About half an hour out of Paris, the train stopped because it had been ‘hit with rocks’.
We sat for about an hour at one of the train stations. We arrived at our destination approximately one hour behind schedule. Rumors are circulating that the strike might begin as early as the 13th of November. Therefore we’ve exchanged our November 14th train ticket for Monday the 12th.
Strikes in other sectors are also brewing. In Brittany, the fishermen are striking, and some university students in Paris are striking (Jussieu). It looks like November may be a month filled with inconveniences, or at the very least, much discontent. If you are planning a trip to France, I would strongly recommend keeping up to date on the latest strike information – For the moment there is no word about airline strikes (Air France experienced strikes earlier this month and ‘technical’ difficulties created havoc at CDG for vacationers during the Toussaint long weekend).
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THERE ARE SOME RUMORS CIRCULATING THAT AIR FRANCE COULD VERY LIKELY GO ON STRIKE AT SOME POINT DEPENDING ON WHETHER SNCF AND RATP DECIDE TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THEIR TENTATIVE PLANS TO STRIKE.
Regardless of which transportation sector decides to strike, every mode of transportation ends up being affected. Your best best is to try to plan trips where a delay between transportation modes will not prevent you from catching a flight. Try to fit in plenty of buffer time for any surprises.
You may also want to consider contacting an airport transport service such as ATPS Airport Transfer Paris Services (Prices start at 75 Euros).
Or you can book with Taxi-Bleus online. Taxi-bleus has a fleet of ‘People Carriers’ for families or people traveling with extra luggage.
Why are rail workers unhappy? Rail workers and other work sectors are able to retire in some cases between 50 and 55 years old. The norm for the majority of workers in France is between 60 and 65. Originally because rail work was extremely dangerous (with steam engines that had to be constantly fueled with wood or coal, the job was physically strenuous and debilitating.
The last I heard, steam engines are no longer in use – but certainly SNCF workers have their reasons for wanting to retire at 50 or 55. Wouldn’t almost everyone like to retire earlier? One of NIcolas Sarkozy’s campaign promises was to create ‘across the board’ norms so that these exceptional cases of early retirement would not apply to just one sector of the labor force.