Transport workers and unions in cities across France have issued notices for strikes and mobilizations from September 1 onwards as they intensify their protest against low wages, poor working conditions and chronic understaffing. The call for the strikes and mobilization was given by workers affiliated to the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), CFDT, CFTC, Workers’ Force (FO), SUD, and other unions. Workers of school transport and bus, metro and tram services are likely to participate in the strikes, protests and other mobilizations planned in the cities of Bordeaux, Nantes, Lille, Pau, Dijon, and others. They are demanding better wages at par with the soaring inflation in order to cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
Workers across Europe have been reeling under an acute cost of living crisis marked by skyrocketing fuel and food prices. The workers of the transport sector, already severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, are now finding it hard to make ends meet due to rising inflation. Transport companies and their subcontractors, which are operating the public transport in several cities, have over time reduced their services, terminated staff, used temporary workers and scrapped permanent contracts, denied workers rights, and slashed wages and bonus and overtime benefits. Even in places where companies offered a pay rise, the hike has been nominal and insufficient compared to the rising rates of inflation.
According to L’Humanite, transport workers in Pau will go on strike on September 1, while workers in Lille will start their strike on September 3. Workers and unions in Nantes have also issued protest alerts and are gearing up for a massive mobilization by workers of Semitan, the company in charge of the public transport network in the city. The Keolis group, which operates public transport networks in several French cities including Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille, Lyon, Orléans, and Rennes, has also been criticized for reducing services and not addressing the workers’ demand for a pay rise.
The CGT union at Semitan stated that “the situation has already been tense for a long time. The summer has been complicated, the services are modified on a daily basis, this upsets the organization of the employees. And as in all transport companies, recruitment is not happening.”
The union also denounced subcontracting as the subcontracted drivers in chartered lines are paid between €400 (401 USD) and €500 (USD 501) less than Semitan drivers.