PARIS (Reuters) – Several far-left French unions called for a nationwide strike on Thursday, demanding pay rises to combat soaring inflation that threatens disruptions in transport, schools and the energy sector.
One-day strike seen as a test of unions’ ability to mobilize support and a barometer of potential social unrest as President Emmanuel Macron decides whether to move forward with plans to reform the pension system .
The more moderate CFDT union has shied away from strike calls, but its boss, Laurent Berger, has pledged to stage street protests later this year if the government goes too far and too fast on pension reform .
The cost of living crisis in Europe is putting upward pressure on wages, as private and public companies across the continent face the need for workers to cushion the impact of rising prices.
“Wages have to be raised. The country has a purchasing power problem,” Philippe Martinez, whose CGT union spearheaded Thursday’s protest, told BFM television.
CGT, whose members include the transport and energy sectors, supports raising the minimum wage to 2, EURO ($1,947.80) Monthly, Weekly 000 Hours and Retirement at 60. Martinez called on other unions to support the strike action.
“All unions must be united if we want to win,” he added.
Strike CGT workers this week forced the closure of the TotalEnergies Gonfreville refinery and disrupted deliveries at other refineries.
Nuclear power industry workers are expected to join Thursday’s strike, removing some capacity from the French grid as France already faces a record number of nuclear reactor outages.
Among French primary schools, the SNUipp-FSU union expects one for every 10 primary school in Paris to close.
Based on strike participation projections, disruptions to commuter train services to the capital and metro operations should not be severe. On average, two-thirds of buses are expected to run in the capital.