A wave of industrial action hit France on Thursday with rail and public service strikes causing headaches for commuters and passengers. Violence flared in Paris in the afternoon. Here are the latest updates.

Main info:

  • Thousands join protests taking place across the country including Paris
  • Violent clashes between protesters and riot police in Paris 
  • Hundreds of TGV and mainline rail services cancelled across the country
  • Paris rail commuters advised to avoid travel
  • Paris Metro running almost as normal 
  • Air France: Between 25% and 30% of short haul flights cancelled at CDG and Orly airports in Paris
  • 34 flights cancelled from Nice airport and 40 from Toulouse Blagnac
  • Ryanair and easyJet cancel scores of flights to/from/over France
  • Air France cancels 25 percent of flights on Friday due to a separate strike
  • French strikers justify why travel chaos is necessary

Unions in France ramped up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday as a wave of strikes and protests caused travel chaos across the country.

Demonstrations took place in cities around France as public service workers including air traffic controllers, teachers and pupils were joined by rail workers,as unions lash out at President Emmanuel Macron’s string of reforms.

Riot police clashed with hooded youths as striking school pupils marched through Paris on Thursday afternoon. There were also clashes in the western city of Nantes.

The tweet below shows the police water canons in use in Bastille in Paris.

Manifestation des cheminots : Jets de projectiles contre gaz lacrymogènes. A proximité de la bastille, des jeunes en marge du défilé s’en prennent aux forces de l’ordre qui ripostent http://www.lechiquiersocial.com/event/manifestation-nationale-des-cheminots-et-appel-a-la-greve-de-la-cgt/?instance_id=786 

Similarly the tweet below shows the scenes of destruction in central Paris while describing the situation as “still very tense” near Bastille.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Des heurts éclatent à Paris entre “casseurs” et forces de l’ordre. De nombreuses vitrines sont brisés. La situation est toujours très tendue dans le quartier de la Bastille @A2PRL


As a result hundreds of flights and train services were cancelled and scores of schools and creches closed their doors on Thursday. The strikes are also expected to affect hospitals, libraries and other public services.

The greater Paris region of Île-de-France was particularly badly hit by the industrial action. Although Metro services were running as normal, RER and Transilien commuter trains were severely disrupted.

The director general of Transilien services, which link Paris to surrounding areas advised passengers to simply avoid travel if possible. Those who had no choice but to head in to work faced major headaches.

The RER D service was only running a quarter of the usual trains at rush hour while the RER A and C saw between a quarter and a third of usual services cancelled. It was a similar story on the RER B where passengers heading to Charles de Gaulle airport were required to change at Gare du Nord.

There were reports of 300 kilometres of traffic jams around Paris as people used their cars to get to work. Police also warned that several Metro stations may be closed due to protests on Thursday afternoon including Gare de L’Est, Bastille and Republique.

Around France TGV services were severely impacted by the strike with around 60 percent of trains cancelled. Just one in four regular mainline Intercité trains across the country will be operating and only half of the regional TER trains.

Eurostar was also forced to cancel several trains.

SERVICE UPDATE: Due to industrial action in France on Thursday 22/03, we’re sorry to inform you of the cancellations below: 07:04 Paris>London 09:04 Paris>London 14:22 London>Paris 18:01 London>Paris

Please see http://bddy.me/2ptNJY4  for info

There was similar disruption at airports, particularly in Paris where some 30 percent of flights were cancelled at Orly, CDG and Beauvais airports.

Budget airline Ryanair was also forced to cancel over 100 flights to, from and over France, which left the airline’s chiefs furious.

“Ryanair call on the French Government and European Commission to take immediate action to prevent the skies over Europe being closed yet again,” read a statement from the airline.

Ryanair’s Kenny Jacobs said:“Yet again, thousands of European consumers will have their travel plans disrupted by a tiny group of French ATC unions going on strike this week.”

While all Air France’s long-haul flights out of Orly and CDG should take off as scheduled, some 25 percent of the carrier’s medium-haul flights in and out of CDG have been hit. At Orly airport some 40 percent of short-haul flights in and out of the airport were cancelled. Passengers could also expect major delays even if their flights have survived the cull.

The walk-out by air traffic controllers also caused disruption at airports around France with 34 flights to and from Nice airport cancelled and 40 at Toulouse-Blagnac.

Laurent Berger, head of the more moderate CFDT union told France’s RTL radio: “The government must listen to public service workers.

“Either the government listens or civil service workers will be extremely mobilized”.

Unions told The Local that while they regretted the impact of the strikes on travellers their cause justified the travel chaos.

“These strikes are always difficult and we know that is not good for transport users and the public in general,” Yves Veyrier a spokesman for the union Force Ouvriere told The Local.

“We would prefer not to strike and would prefer to have a debate with the government, but we have asked Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and now Emmanuel Macron and we are still waiting for it,” he said.

“People must understand, this is a last resort and this is about the future of France’s public service for everyone.”

Thursday’s major strike won’t be the end of the travel headaches for the public. On Friday Air France staff will stage a walk-out as they demand a 6 percent pay rise across the board, which will see scores of flights cancelled again and rail workers have announced a wave of rolling two day strikes throughout the spring as they aim to pressure the government into ditching its planned reform of the rail sector.



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