PARIS (Dispatches) - Striking workers in France and protesters have taken to the streets in Bulgaria to demand higher salaries as rising inflation levels hit the countries.
The strikes have shut down half of the Paris subway system, 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.
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.
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.
In Bulgaria on Friday, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand higher salaries as rising inflation levels hit the country.
The demonstration, organized by the country’s two largest trade unions, saw protesters gather in front of the parliament building holding banners and chanting requests for better pay.
The unions gave the government a joint declaration to speed up the adoption of next year’s budget to avoid the risk of freezing the minimum wage at its current level despite inflation.
The declaration also called for support for large groups of people that were exposed to energy poverty before winter and the protection of labor rights.
The protest continued with a procession of more than 1,000 cars, passing along the main boulevards in the capital, Sofia, causing significant traffic jams.