On Tuesday, France experienced the closest thing to a general strike, with strikes in transport, in the energy sector, and also in education. The collective action was performed to demand increased wages to combat the loss of purchasing power experienced by the French in the wake of inflation. The origin of these protests is in the refinery strike that has lasted more than two weeks and that is leaving French gas stations without fuel. It comes at a critical moment for President Emmanuel Macron (who was re-elected in April but with less support with strong parliamentary opposition), who must approve budgets for 2023.
In addition to the strike in the energy sector, more than a hundred demonstrations have been called throughout the country. The protests extend to public transport, education and health and threaten to collapse the country. For example, this Tuesday many parents were not be able to take their children to school due to lack of staff. In terms of transport, problems are were experienced throughout the country, especially in the Paris suburban trains, the RER.
The protest is led by a cohort of workers unions and NGOs. They all ask for the mobilisation “for the increase of wages, pensions, and social subsidies and the improvement of living and study conditions”. The salary demand is also the reason that caused the strike of the last weeks in the refineries by the workers of the energy companies TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil. Several nuclear power plants were added to them last week (on Monday there were 10 that faced serious issues) and the Government has even been forced to intervene by law in some fuel tanks in order to guarantee supply to service stations.
The Macron government fears that the conflict will escalate, as happened with the yellow vests in 2018, during Macron’s first term. This is also happening at a very critical moment for the president, who emerged very weakened from the last legislative elections, and who has strong opposition both from the extreme right led by Marine Le Pen, and from the extreme left of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.