French public sectors strike against the Juppe Plan 1995


Withdrawal of the Juppe Plan

Time period notes

Nationwide strike is called in mid September following Juppe's announcement of austerity measures in early September. Most palpable effects of the strike starts receding from 15 December when most of the rail workers return to work.

Time period

September, 1995 to December, 1995



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Strikes especially prevalent in Paris
Jump to case narrative


Marc Blondel (FO), Luis Viannet (CGT)



External allies

CFDT, teachers, students, general public


Jacques Chirac, Alain Juppe

Campaigner violence

Occasional clashes with miners and students from early to mid December. Violence was not sanctioned by government and is mostly sporadic.

Repressive Violence

No repressive violence


Economic Justice



Group characterization

public sector employees

Groups in 1st Segment

General Confederation of Labour (CTG)
Force Ouvrière (FO)

Groups in 2nd Segment

French Confederation of Management - General Confederation of Executives (CFE-CGC)

Groups in 4th Segment

Airline employee
Ferry workers
Railroad workers

Groups in 5th Segment

Bus drivers
Post services
Hospital employee
Government office workers
Subways workers

Groups in 6th Segment


Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Most transport related workers except airline employee begin open-ended strike on 24th November to culminate on the 15th December. Others join the strike on designated days or later in the campaign during early and mid December.

Segment Length

2 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

2 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

6 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Concessions granted from the government was mostly limited to the railroad workers who could exert the most pressure on the Juppe government. In the end, the fundamental austerity measures of the Juppe Plan were preserved.

Database Narrative

Jacques Chirac became president of France with a majority 53 to 47 vote in a close May 1995 presidential election. Chirac had little time to celebrate, however. Chirac faced the daunting tasks of fixing France’s waning economy and addressing widening social inequality. At the time, France’s economy was limping along with unemployment at 12.3% - higher than any other leading industrialised nation.  

In his first address to the nation on the fiscal policy, Chirac’s prime minister of choice, Alain Juppe angered the powerful public sector by announcing pay freezes for 1996. He also declared postponements of previously promised tax cuts.  France in 1995 suffered from not only soaring unemployment, but also heavy government deficit. At the time, the deficit loomed at $64 billion and without further intervention, was only expected to grow further. The deficit posed a dilemma for France, which had prioritised the formation of the Eurozone. To realise the dream of a single European currency, France had to reduce its deficits and to do that, Juppe relied on cutbacks to spending in the public sector. Almost a quarter of the French population worked in the public sector, and government expenditure amounted to almost 51% of the GDP. Public wages accounted for almost 40% of government spending, and for France to cut back, decrease in public funding was seen as inevitable.

The announced pay freezes and tax increases drew the wrath of the public sector unions who, despite having struggled to unite over most issues, now banded together against Juppe. His policies were swiftly condemned by the union leaders who called for a national strike in mid-October to protest the pay freeze. Almost 57% of civil servants participated in the national strike on 10 October, and the union leaders led a march of approximately 50,000 workers and public sympathisers in Bastille square. Despite such strong showings, Juppe refused to negotiate salaries until the next summer. Unions warned of additional strikes.

The strikes resumed in November. Tens of thousands of mainly transportation workers came out on 14 November, causing major train, ferry, and airline service disruptions. Demonstrations were reported in almost 80 cities nationwide. Despite the strikes, Juppe announced the details of his austerity measures on the 15 November that only further stoked union anger. Amongst others, the bill called for 0.5% increase in income tax for all but the poorest demographics, and increased the years of contribution for the pension plans of public sector workers. Juppe also announced specific measures within industries. Notably, the railway workers became worried that the planned closure of many unprofitable routes would induce numerous layoffs.

Unions promptly denounced Juppe and called for additional nationwide strikes. Two strikes were organised: 24 November by the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and on the 28 November by the Force Ouvriere (FO).  

While fewer civil servants attended the strike on the 24 November compared to the one held in October, the massive overloading of  Parisian highways caused by the striking transportation workers made the effects of the strike more palpable. Transportation workers’ strikes shut down most modes of transport for commuters such as trains, subways, buses, and ferry. Recognising the severity of the strike to the French economy, the government opened roundtable discussions on the 26 November for the rail employees, but the talks broke down. Almost 60 000 union workers and public sympathisers participated in the nationwide general strike on the 28 November, further swelling the growing protest. On the same day, rail workers agreed to continue the strike indefinitely. Juppe hired private buses and ferries to mitigate the impact of the transport workers’ strike, but otherwise withheld comment on the protests, determined to push through the austerity measures with the majority his party enjoyed in the parliament. 

From late November, the protests started to snowball quickly to represent a huge swelling of discontent. Utility workers agreed to join the rail workers on an indefinite strike on the 30 November, and French domestic airline, telephones, and tax agencies also agreed on solidarity from the 4 December. While the strikes were having a devastating impact on the economy and on the lives of all ordinary French citizens, they still enjoyed public approval. According to polls, 62% of the French public supported the strikes, and additional polls indicated that the public blamed Chirac for the ongoing strikes. While there were citizen groups that protested the disruptive strikes, with almost 3 000 rallying on the 4 December, they mostly urged immediate negotiations between the government and the unions, and did not seek to undermine the strike itself. Beginning to sense danger, Juppe convened an emergency cabinet meeting on the 4 December and also employed a mediator to reach an agreement with the railroad workers.

In the second week of December, postal, telephone, hospital, and gas workers joined the protest. Teachers and airline employees also joined in, and unions estimated that almost 1 million workers participated in the 12 December stirke. Recognising that the strikes now posed existential threats to the government, Juppe agreed to meet directly with union leaders for negotiations, withdrew plans to change the pension system, and delayed measures to overhaul the railway network. When the government also agreed to pay the workers who had been on strike, most rail workers became satisfied and voted to return to work on the 16 December. While protest continued with other public sector employees, the government made no further significant concessions, and the Juppe Plan remained relatively untouched save for adjustments to placate the railroad workers. 


Memories of the May 1968 strikes struck fear into government officials and the public of another massive shutdown.


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Ridding, John. 1995. “French Prime Minister Unveils Welfare Shakeup.” NewsBank. Retrieved April 29, 2015 (

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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Dong Shin You, 01/02/2015