By Forrest Crellin
PARIS -French strikes which were meant to last 48 hours at nuclear reactors and fuel refineries have ended after a day, with the hardline CGT union saying workers preferred to join a national strike next Tuesday.
Opinion polls show wide opposition to government plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.
The challenge for the unions is to transform that opposition and anger over a cost-of-living crisis into a mass social protest which could eventually force the government to change tack.
“Workers are attached to cross-sector strike days,” said Benjamin Tange, the CGT‘s central delegate at TotalEnergies. “We have to be able to hit the same nail at the same moment to win.”
The union therefore decided to strike on Jan. 26 and 31 instead of Jan. 27, he said.
At nuclear reactors, the strike ended early because grid operator RTE requested that the nuclear supply be returned to the network due to the cold, a spokesperson for the energy branch of the union FNME-CGT said.
While not a legal obligation, unions tend to comply with such requests.
Besides, following on from a deal struck with EDF in October, workers have “a lot of expectation on wage negotiations” and that helped bring them back to work, FNME-CGT spokesperson Virginie Neumayer told Reuters.
France is expected to be a net exporter of electricity through the day until the early evening on Friday, data from grid operator RTE showed, after being a net importer early in the morning.
The strike, which started Thursday, had only a marginal effect on nuclear power supply throughout the day and into the evening compared to the around 10% of total supply removed from the grid on Jan. 19, operator EDF data showed.
Production disruptions at hydropower plants, where strikes tend to be more intermittent, ended on Thursday, the data showed.