The Paris metro was at a standstill Thursday with operators threatening to stage an indefinite strike next week amid a dispute over pay and conditions. Up to 4,000 demonstrators marched though central Paris – and up to 60,000 nationwide – as part of a multi-sector protest to pressure the government over its pension reform.
Seven lines of the Paris metro were completely closed and seven others open only during rush hour as the UNSA RATP transport union warned it could not rule out a repeat of the rolling strikes that crippled the French capital in December 2019.
"I say it clearly, if our demands are not met the movement will last much longer than today," union boss Arole Lamasse told BFMTV.
All unions affiliated with the RATP metro operator urged staff to down tools.
"Today is a big warning shot and we hope they will hear it," warned the secretary general of the hardline CGT RATP union, Bertrand Hammache. He was speaking to journalists from the Paris march.
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, future RATP boss Jean Castex, a former prime minister, said he would open wage negotiations in December.
Pinch of soaring prices
Unions representing the RATP's nearly 70,000 employees say they are feeling the pinch of soaring prices, but are also overstretched because of insufficient hiring, resulting in increased sick leave.
That has led to more service delays or lower frequency on busy metro lines in recent months, causing headaches for the system's roughly 12 million daily users.
Unions say such positions struggle to attract applicants.
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