En grève. On strike!

It’s officially spring, mes amis! And in France that means strike season. As the SNCF and others kick off what will surely be a prolonged strike action (2 days per week for now, a new part-time approach that shows the unions are thinking outside the box…) I have decided to reblog this post from the early days of FranceSays. Hopefully still as fresh as spring!


'One strike may conceal another!' ‘One strike may conceal another’

Note to readers: The management would like to apologize for any inconvenience as the regularly scheduled post cannot be shown this week due to a labour dispute.

This would not be a blog about life in France without a little strike action. The right to strike – faire grève – is deeply engrained in the French culture, and it is one that is regularly exercised.

As the French national rail company, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), or, as I’ve heard it popularly referred to: Société Nationale des Connards et de Fainéants – national company of jerks and lazy asses – now enters its second week of strike, I feel inspired to join them.

There is a certain time pressure. The period between the month of long weekends in May and the official start of the summer holiday period in July is all…

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  1. Mél@nie · March 22, 2018

    we lived in Paris for many years, and we did experience this “pagaille-bordel” several times/year, as “strike season” is often in September, too… duhhh!!! so content to live here… 🙂

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Yes, fewer strikes and the sun as a bonus! 😀

  2. dunnasead.co · March 22, 2018

    If you want to see when a strike will occur over here in gutenberg land, you check the single days linking long holidays. It’s sort of a national sport to see if you can’t turn a week school vacation off into eight weeks at a cottage on the beach. If a group of families are from the railway, there is even free or cheap travel. The most permanent strike, however, is mardi gras thursday to ash wednesday. People start booking busses right about now for next year.

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Lol. Maybe that explains why the German-French friendship is so strong. 😀

  3. davidprosser · March 22, 2018

    Cue Dame Burly Chassis with the song ‘A little bit of History Repeating’ as the sun fades over the yardarm. It’s this terrible feeling of deja vu.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Lol do you mean Shirley Bassey? We could use a bit her soul right now! xo

  4. Osyth · March 22, 2018

    I could cheerfully have blown up the SNCF offices last week when our bag was stolen from the hold of the Navette (OuiBus owned by SNCF) from Lyon to Grenoble. We know they know it is a problem because on the outward part of the journey they had an official watching the bags who told my husband it is because they have a grave problem with theft. No such man when we returned (presumably because he is on go-slow and wasn’t working that day) ….. I support workers rights as I support all human rights but striking be it SNCF or Air France (who will doubtless go in early summer) or Air Traffic Control (usually straight after Air France) are hurting the innocent and that doesn’t seem very socialist at all. #justsaying 😉 xx

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      I am so very angry that this happened to you, Osyth! I feel deeply ashamed that this behaviour is so endemic in France (and I know it’s not JUST here but certainly it is a bit of a speciality). I hope that those responsible at the SNCF have provided you with compensation in some way, not to mention an abject apology, even though those boots are irreplaceable. But somehow I doubt it… Argh!

      • Osyth · March 23, 2018

        You fell foul of my cousin on Facebook for making this remark. I resisted pointing out that they considered a move to France and chose Cornwall 🤣 …. of course we had nothing from SNCF however I love writing letters and have constructed a corner which a friend is translating into perfectly pithy French for me …. on these occasions there is no room for anything by native spoken fluency…. there will he updates and Ouibus will wish they hadn’t chosen that hashtag that involves the word ‘merci’ 😉

  5. Susanne · March 22, 2018

    Witty. And timely as there is a strike at my daughter’s university right now which is making a mess of thousands of dollars of education. I’m not amused about that but I do like your post.

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Is she in Canada? Some of those strikes can go on for sooooo long. The irony in France is that the strikes while hugely disruptive never last more than a day or two….they just repeat ad infinitum. But your comment brings back a memory from my far-distant high school days, when we almost lost our year due to the prolonged teachers’ strike!

      • Susanne · March 22, 2018

        Yes, she’s at Carleton U. And the strike has been in progress since March 7.

      • MELewis · March 22, 2018


  6. Heide · March 22, 2018

    You should have seen the streets in Paris today, Mel — utter madness! I’ve seen plenty of strikes during my visits over the years, but this one seems to be fraying nerves more. It will be interesting to see what comes of it, though we can all be fairly certain Macron won’t budge in his reforms.

    • MELewis · March 23, 2018

      I hope you’re right, Heide, because these reforms need to go through. But I just realized we are coming up to the 50 year anniversary of May 1968 which means the French unions will be in fighting form. A suivre…

  7. Colin Bisset · March 22, 2018

    French air traffic control strikes always added texture to summer holiday mayhem when I lived in the UK. Strikes of any kind are pretty rare over here in Australia. And so whenever I head to France and our plane is about to land at Paris CDG I suddenly remember and think: damn, I forgot to check who’s on strike at the moment. And pray that it’s not SNCF/ RER or whoever we’re about to use.

    • MELewis · March 23, 2018

      I know the feeling! It’s an added worry for travelers not to mention a huge pain for people who commute. Good thing France has a few attributes going for it, otherwise I fear many visitors would go elsewhere. Glad it has not prevented you from being a return visitor!

      • Colin Bisset · March 23, 2018

        It’d take a lot more than a strike!😊

  8. Suzanne et Pierre · April 4, 2018

    Looks like it is going to be quite busy strike season this year…hope it doesn’t affect you too much. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · April 4, 2018

      Thanks, Suzanne. We are lucky in the sense that we don’t depend upon public transport to get to work (and in my case, working freelance is mostly from my home office so no commuting). That said, no one in France escapes strike season in one way or another! If we are briefly inconvenienced for the better good, so be it. It is very different from my memories of the rare but sometimes very long strikes of the TTC (public transit) in Toronto, or the teachers.

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