Trains, schools hit by French union strike amid rising inflation

PARIS, Oct. 18 (Reuters) – Regional rail traffic in France was cut by about half on Tuesday after several unions called a nationwide strike, trying to capitalize on decades of high inflation anger over weeks-long industrial action at oil refineries extend to other sectors.

There was also some disruption to schools as the strike mainly affected the public sector.

Union leaders hoped workers would be energized by the government’s decision to force some of them back to work at petrol depots to try and get the fuel going again, a decision some say threatens the right to strike.

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But a survey by Elabe surveys for BFM TV showed that only 39% of the public supported Tuesday’s call for a nationwide strike, while 49% opposed it, and a growing number opposed the strike by oil refinery workers.

The refinery workers’ strike has become one of President Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges since his reelection in May.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran said the requisition of more refinery staff could take place during the day as lines of motorists worried about disruption to supplies at gas stations grow.

“As many claims will be made as deemed necessary… Blocking refineries, when we have reached an agreement on wages, is not a normal situation,” Veran told France 2 TV.

Just under 10% of high school teachers are on strike Tuesday, with even lower numbers in primary schools, data from the Department of Education shows. The call for strikes was most often seen in vocational schools, where teachers resisted planned reforms.

On the transport front, Eurostar said it was canceling some trains between London and Paris due to the strike.

The French public railway company SNCF said traffic on regional connections had fallen by 50%, but there were no major disruptions on national lines.

As tensions mount in the eurozone’s second-largest economy, strikes have spread to other parts of the energy sector, including nuclear giant EDF (EDF.PA), where maintenance works critical to Europe’s power supply will be completed. be postponed.

A representative of the FNME-CGT union said on Tuesday the strikes affected work at nuclear power plants, including those in Penly.

The strikes are taking place as the government plans to approve the 2023 budget using special constitutional powers that would allow it to bypass a vote in parliament, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Sunday.

Demonstrations are planned across the country, with one in Paris starting at 1200 GMT.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Paris on Sunday to protest rising prices. The leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Jean-Luc Melenchon, marched with this year’s Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Annie Ernaux.

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Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander, Forrest Crellin and Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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