For members


Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

If a one-day strike is called in France there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday - here's why.

Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
A demonstrator, wearing a jacket of the French union General Confederation of Labour (CGT), waves a light flare during a rally in Lyon, south-eastern France (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP)

There are two types of strikes in France – unlimited or open-ended strikes that run for days or weeks at a time and single-day actions.

And if it’s a one-day strike, there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday – as we have seen with the latest pension reform strikes which have been called for Thursday, January 19th and Tuesday, January 31st.

This is useful to know if you’re planning a trip and have some flexibility over your days of travel, but this doesn’t just happen by accident.

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Stéphane Sirot, a historian specialising in the sociology of strikes and trade unionism, explained to French newspaper Le Parisien that it’s all about maximising turnout.

Put simply, unions declare strikes on the days when the greatest number of people are working, in order to have the highest possible number of strikers in order to heap pressure on the employers and/or government. 

For this reason, weekends and public holidays are out because these days tend to have a reduced workforce. Workers who work on weekends, such as train drivers or waste collectors, often take Mondays or Fridays as rest days, so again there is a limited number of people who can strike.

There is another reason Mondays are out, said Sirot; “A sort of ‘battle plan meeting’ is generally held the day before a strike, in order to organise, for example, demonstration plans. However, the union leaders are not going to meet on a Sunday to refine the last points.”

READ MORE: Grève illimitée or générale: 12 bits of French strike vocab you need to know

And Fridays have a further problem: “If a renewable strike starts on a Friday and a day of action is put in place on the following Monday, people working in the public sector will have four days of pay taken away, because the administration considers that they are on strike for the whole period. In order not to deplete the finances of strikers, unions are careful not to organise mobilisations on a Friday.”

And Wednesdays? This is more of a historic reason relating to French schools giving children Wednesday afternoons off – which means that many parents also take the whole of Wednesday or the afternoon off. These days the Wednesday half-day is less common, but it still happens so unions usually avoid Wednesdays as well – leaving Tuesdays and Thursdays the optimum strike days.

You may also have noticed that demos are divided into two kinds – union-organised marches which take place during the week and those organised by political parties which happen at the weekend, usually on Saturdays.

“Union-organised demos usually go together with strikes – which is to say the stopping of the working time. In their eyes, demonstrating on weekends is not unionism,” added Sirot.

Of course, if the one-day strikes turn into une grève illimité (unlimited strike) or une grève reconductible (renewable strikes) they will encompass the whole week.

If you want to keep up with ongoing strike action in France, head to our strike section found HERE.

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For members


Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

You might know it as the French Open, but in France it is simply 'le Roland Garros' tennis tournament - but who was Roland Garros?

Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

Question: I’ve noticed that the French always refer to the French Open tennis tournament as simply ‘Roland Garros’, after the name of the venue in Paris. But who was Roland?

The tennis tournament is named after the venue it is played at – Stade Roland Garros at Porte d’Auteuil in the west of Paris, close to Bois de Boulogne.

But Garros himself is best known as an aviator, not a tennis player.

Hear the team from The Local talk about Garros – and France’s sporting calendar this summer – in the latest episode of the Talking France podcast. Download here or listen on the link below

In fact, he doesn’t seem to have had much interest in tennis – during his life he played football, was a keen cyclist and played rugby for Stade Français (which still exists and is now a professional rugby club in Paris) but there’s no record that he played tennis regularly or even enjoyed watching it.

He’s best known as a pilot, one of the small group of daredevils who took up the new sport of aviation.

In 1913, at the age of 25 he became the first person to fly across the Mediterranean, which made him very famous in Paris. When World War I broke out he joined up as a pilot and took part in many missions before being shot down and killed in 1918.

Roland Garros (4th from right, in civilian clothes) pictured in Tunisia after his record-breaking 1913 flight. Photo by STAFF / AFP

Fast-forward 10 years to 1928 and the sports venue that now bears his name was nearing completion.

The Stade français multi sports club, which owned it, was run by a man named Emile Lesueur who had been a close friend of Garros, and it was him who pushed to have the stadium named after Roland Garros.

Often in history ‘close friends’ is used as a euphemism for lover, but there is no other suggestion that either man was gay, so it seems that they were just friends, and Lesueur wanted to honour the man whose life had been snuffed out by war.

By 1928 Garros still had some name recognition in France as a famous pilot and war hero, so it wouldn’t have been a totally left-field choice for the new building, albeit with no tennis connection. 

As the official Stade Roland Garros site puts it: “Yes, Roland Garros had tenuous links with tennis. But few stadiums in the world bear the name of a man who has shown so much willpower, intelligence and courage. Cardinal values for those who aim for the supreme title at the Porte d’Auteuil venue.”