Nov 13th, 2019, 04:34 PM

Attention à La Marche: Unlimited Union Strikes Start Tonight

By Ariane Petit
Closed metro station. Image credit: Shutterstock, 1282833139
Parisians, put your sneakers on!

As a born and raised Parisian, strikes have never been a shock to me. From when I started to take the metro on a daily basis in the eighth grade, strikes begun to truly affect my day to day life. At that time, I was using the infamous line 13. Even when RATP was not striking, it felt like they were due to how packed the line usually was. I'm not looking forward to this upcoming unlimited strike – it could truly shut down all of Paris. Moreso, I am not sure how many students at AUP are truly prepared for this. The strike that took place on September 13 might give a taste of what is to come this December for those that have never suffered a Parisian strike before – but this time it will truly be worse, lasting more than one day.  

To quote the Secretary-General of L’UNSA-RATP “From December 5th, It will be zero metro, zero RER, and very few buses”. 

But the real question all Parisians are asking, is how many days is the strike going to last? Two days, two weeks, a month? We'll get that answer tonight. Hopefully, it is short lived.

Crowded Strasbourg Saint-Denis station. Image credit: Shutterstock, 209826

So why are RATP workers striking? They are demanding that the government abandons the currently planned retirement reform, which will cause some workers in RATP to lose their early retirement benefits. In France, there are 42 different retirements systems, each for a different type of profession such as train workers (RATP), military, clerks and workers within the Paris Opera. Workers contribute to their retirement fund by paying their taxes. Some classes are special because they give workers access to retirement sometimes earlier than a regular retirement system, due to strenuous labor such as train workers who used to shovel coal into the steam engine for 12 hours a day. There are three categories of special regimes, the RATP being one of them. If the reforms pass on, it will mean the end of the advantages of the future workers employed by the RATP. The reforms will not impact the personnel currently working at the RATP, but the future workers.

CGT demonstration. Image credit: Shutterstock, 1036418059

This time, the RATP has some leverage since the strike will be happening around Christmas, around when people being their shopping and/or travel within France to spend Christmas at home with their family. From a touristic point of view, it will obviously impact this aspect of the economy. No metro or buses means no way for a tourists to get around Paris. Even if they decide to use Uber, prices will be ridiculous due to the surcharge rate. Ubers will still spend hours within Paris traffic, as everyone takes to the streets.

But the RATP is not the only company striking. The biggest SNCF unions are now also officially calling for striking starting on December 5, which means that there will be no regional train (RER). If you were thinking of taking a blablacar or even a bus, you can also expect a sharp price rise. If you want to get around in Paris it will be the same type of transportation as the previous strike in September such as scooters, bikes, mopeds, and good old fashion walking. But to get from one side of the city to the other, there will be no other way to move around Paris, or the entire country of France other than cars. Air France, the French national air carrier also had their number one union call for a strike. As the days go by and the strike is getting closer I am really starting to think that I am going to spend the holidays stuck in Paris without even having the possibility to think of taking a day off and leaving the city and its problems behind for at least a day. Having the right of striking is fundamental.  But when you overuse the power, it can cause many heated Parisians.

*RATP has recently announced that Line 1 and Line 14 will be functioning normally throughout the strike, as the only automated lines in the city. However, the trains will likely be overcrowded and slow.