The strike, a national sport? In 2022, walking off the job was in any case very fashionable, according to the latest data from the statistical service of the Ministry of Labor. A trend brought up to date after two years of relative calming of social conflicts during the health crisis. According to the study by Dares (Directorate for Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics) published this Wednesday, “in 2022, 2.4% of companies with 10 or more employees in the non-agricultural private sector will experience one or several collective work stoppages. A proportion which “increases significantly” (0.8 points compared to 2021) and therefore contrasts with those of 2020 and 2021, years marked by the pandemic. To the point of being close to the peaks reached in 2019 (2.5% of the companies concerned then experienced a walkout), the year with the most strikes of the decade.

A strong return to protest which is reflected in the number of individual days not worked (JINT) due to strike action. In 2022, it increased by 71% compared to the previous year, to reach 99 days per 1000 employees. For comparison, it was only 58 days per 1,000 employees in 2021. But although significant, this proportion remains lower than the 2019 record, with 161 JINT for as many employees. On the other hand, in 2022 as in 2019, the transport and warehousing sectors are in the lead with 414 days of strikes per 1000 employees (and 1038 in 2019). They are challenged by education, human health and private social action.

“Strikes are more frequent in large companies,” add the Dares experts. In 2022, one company with more than 500 employees in three was affected by a strike, an increase of 8.2 points compared to 2021. However, the smallest companies are not left out. The proportion of walkouts in those with fewer than 50 employees has doubled compared to the previous year. The intensity of the strikes also increased in 2022. Longer and with greater participation, the 2022 walkouts are more virulent, “particularly in industry”, specifies Dares.

The key word for demands? Remuneration, put forward as the number 1 reason in 79% of cases. “A claim up compared to 2021 (6 points) in a context of high inflation,” note the authors of the study. And for good reason: inflation stood at 5.2% in 2022, compared to 1.6% the previous year. With the start of the war in Ukraine, energy prices soared. “In 2022, the energy prices paid by companies will soar, after having already increased at the end of 2021. The price of electricity, which, since 2010, had increased on average by around 3% per year, has increased of 38% for companies between 2019 and 2022”, point out the INSEE experts. Natural gas for households also increased by 40% the same year.

This resulted in major strikes, which are still present in people’s minds. At the end of the summer, refineries and oil depots had almost all mobilized to demand wage increases, drying up the country’s gas pumps. In the absence of an agreement, the government was forced to order the requisition of staff from the blocked locations. The powerful FNME-CGT (National Federation of Mines and Energy of the CGT) also distinguished itself by calling for a walkout by the staff of EDF nuclear power plants and the agents of Enedis and GRDF.

On the transport side, an RATP strike paralyzed the Parisian networks for almost a month. Followed at Christmas by a major mobilization at the SNCF where switchers and controllers mobilized during the school holidays for the upgrading of salaries and their working conditions. This massively followed walkout prevented tens of thousands of travelers from celebrating the holidays with their families. The management of the SNCF then proposed an agreement at the last minute to save New Year’s Eve.