Paris Metro workers strike for wage hike, disrupt commutes

PARIS (AP) — Striking workers shut down half of the Paris subway system Thursday, a nationwide day of walkouts and protests by French train drivers, teachers and other public-sector workers demanding the government and employers increase salaries to keep up with inflation.

Union activists, college students and others marched through Paris and other cities to call attention to their demands, and to the growing numbers of people struggling to make ends meet.

Europe has faced a series of protests and strikes in recent months over soaring inflation. Nurses, pilots, postal workers. railway staff and others have walked off the job, seeking wages that keep pace with inflation as Russia’s war in Ukraine has driven up energy and food prices.

With several subway lines closed and others only working at rush hour, masses of Parisians biked or walked to work. Others took buses that were provided as an alternative way to reach offices and workplaces, or reverted to their pandemic lockdown routines and worked from home.

Tourists shared advice on apps and social networks about how to get from point A to point B. Those who turned to cars found hundreds of kilometers (miles) of traffic jams around the Paris region.

“Given the inflation we need higher salaries. We’ve asked for it. We’re not being heard by the government nor by our companies or employers,” transport worker Jacques Eliez, with the hard-left CGT union, told The Associated Press at the Paris march.

France’s government has capped natural gas prices and offered multiple aid packages to struggling households over the past year, and inflation is lower than in most other European countries — but it’s still higher than most people can remember, and still bites.

Victor Mendez, a student at the University of Nanterre near Paris, marched from eastern Paris to the plaza outside the ornate Opera Garnier.

“We all feel personally affected,” he said. “Families are having a hard time buying a carton of eggs, or bread or even meat. That’s not possible in France,” one of the world’s richest economies, he said.

The strikes in France build on multiple union actions in recent months by French workers demanding higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living. Last month, a strike by oil refinery workers caused nationwide fuel shortages that disrupted lives and businesses. The French government intervened to force them back to work.

Elsewhere in Europe, labor unions also have organized street protests to pressure governments to do more to ease rising bills even as European leaders have passed energy relief packages.

Nationwide general strikes over cost of living increases caused by inflation and higher energy costs linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine snarled traffic through much of Belgium and shut down public services in Greece on Wednesday.

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Barbara Surk in Nice, France and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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