Strikes Threaten French Ski Resorts over Half Term

French unions are threatening to close the lifts over the busiest weeks of the season. Resorts & tour operators are issuing reassuring statements & it seems any action will be limited. UPDATED

The dispute is over pension reforms and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affects ski industry workers.

The two main unions covering lift and seasonal workers announced “unlimited” strike action from January 31st.

It doesn’t mean that any strikes will go ahead, but unions want to put pressure on the government to reach a settlement.

The statements are likely more of a negotiating ploy and many lift operators can not afford to lose pay in any industrial action.

“We have decided to call for a strike during the February holidays because demands are listened to more during this period,” said Eric Becker, head of the lift operators’ branch of the Force Ouvrière union.

He said in a statement that lifts would operate normally on February 1st, and that the aim was not “to weaken companies that are already in difficulty”.

“We want to be heard and have our problems – those that impact seasonal workers – listened to,” he added.

It would be another blow to the ski resorts, after many French resorts were hit by poor snow over the Xmas and New Year period, if any action takes place.

Half-term in the UK is split over two weeks, from February 11th to 25th.

In France it goes on across most of February.

La Clusaz, France. Image © PlanetSKI

La Clusaz, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Resorts in the French Alps are offering re-assurance.

“It’s obviously very concerning to have the threat of strike action, but we are not expecting this to be an issue in Morzine, or the rest of the Portes du Soleil,” said Sara Burdon from the local tourist office.

“We are working closely with all ski area workers and within the Haute Savoie very few are in the unions that have declared the strike.

“Currently there are no strike plans here that have been declared for the 31st January, or throughout February, and we do not expect there to be.

“We will continue to work closely with all colleagues to try to ensure we can avoid any issues.

We do not expect this strike action to have any discernible effect on client holidays in the Portes du Soleil,” Sara Burdon.

Sara Burdon, Morzine Tourist Office. Image © PlanetSKI

Sara Burdon, Morzine Tourist Office. Image © PlanetSKI

A strike is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 31st.

“A similar strike took place on 19th January with no consequences on our ski area opening, with no impact for our clients skiing on this day,” said a statement issued by Les Arcs.

“We can insure that we will do our best to minimise again the impact on our customers and we deplore the negative and stressfull messages delivered by the media,” it added.

Les Arcs, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Les Arcs, France. Image © PlanetSKI

UK tour operators are advising people not to panic and to watch the situation unfold.

“Strikes in France are a total non-event,” said Xavier Scholler from Peak Retreats
“I was at Grand Ski workshop this week and spoke face to face to more than a dozen ski company directors  inclusing all the big ones and not one of them expect the slightest disruption in February,” Xavier added.

“We’re aware of potential ski lift operator strike action during February,” said a statement from Crystal Ski to PlanetSKI.

“We’re working with our partners in our resorts to understand the impact so we can help mitigate disruption where possible.

“We will be liaising with customers who are travelling to France during this time directly to keep them updated,” the statement continued.

The unions have said they intend to take “strong action” during the Ski World Cup, held in Courchevel-Meribel from February 16th-20th.

If skiers are affected those on a package ski holiday might be moved to another resort or be offered a refund, as per the terms and conditions of their holiday.

If you have booked independently it is unlikely there will be refunds on offer as resorts and lift companies are rarely required to pay out for disruption that is outside of their control.

Here at PlanetSKI we’ll keep you posted on developments.

We advise people not to over-react to some of the media reports until the situation becomes clearer.

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