France strikes over inflation, as refinery and railway workers walk out

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Workers across France have gone out to demand better wages amid swirling warnings of a harsh winter looming in Europe. Many on the continent are grappling with record inflation and an energy crisis.

Here’s what you should know about the snowball punches in France:

How did the French strikes begin?

They began weeks ago with refinery workers going on strike to demand higher wages, partly arguing that oil and gas companies were reaping profits from rising energy prices in Europe – a trend spurred by Russia’s war in Ukraine .

The strikes led to fuel shortages and lines at petrol stations across France as some pumps ran dry. Nearly a third of the country’s gas stations were out of fuel as of Sunday.

On October 18, protesters and riot police clashed on the streets of Paris as a result of fuel shortages and nationwide industrial strikes. (Video: The Washington Post)

France has spent money on its energy crisis, but people are still angry

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But the strikes also reflect broader discontent and concerns about how to afford the climb Household bills this winter.

Beginning with refinery and oil depot workers – who have extended their strike – the protests have spread to other industries. The strikes also affected French nuclear power plants, where workers are demanding higher wages.

On Tuesday, thousands of people, including railroad workers and high school students, joined a nationwide strike for the day that caused some traffic disruption. This action followed a large march in Paris on Sunday sponsored by opposition politicians and focused on the rising cost of living.

The unions have promised more action. One of the country’s largest unions, which is leading the strikes, the CGT, reported more than 180 protests nationwide on Tuesday involving 70,000 people in the capital Paris.

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The Interior Ministry, however gave a lower estimate of about 107,000 demonstrators, including 13,000 in Paris. It said that eleven people were arrested and eight police officers were slightly injured in clashes with demonstrators on Tuesday.

Is inflation fueling the protests?

Affected by inflation, purchasing power ranked high as the top concern for the French, who were three times more likely to cite this point of concern than immigration and crime in a survey released this month.

The government has spent billions subsidizing gas prices and energy bills, but the prices of many supermarket staples are still rising.

While France has taken bolder steps than many other countries to stem the impact of Europe’s energy crisis and curb inflation, the show of frustration has raised questions about whether that will be enough in the long run. It has also drawn comparisons to the Yellow Vests movement of 2018, sparked by proposed tax increases but expanded over weeks to include grievances about social inequality.

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How is France dealing with the cost of living crisis?

As the conflict in Ukraine has fueled the energy supply crisis in Europe this time, natural gas prices have been capped at fall 2021 levels and energy price increases capped at 4 percent.

How Europe reacts to Russia’s “energy war” in winter

Caps, set to rise next year, are expected to remain lower than many European countries, and the French government is giving vulnerable households a short-term aid payment of up to $195 that critics say won’t offset inflation in poorer communities.

The seething anger becomes a challenge in French President Emmanuel Macron’s second term. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Parliament on Tuesday said it was “unacceptable that a minority continues to block the country” and said it was time to get back to work.

But the country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, accepted “a salary problem” in France and urges employers to “increase wages where possible”.

Rick Noack contributed to this report.



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