Who's going to pick up the trash that's piling up on the streets of the capital? While Parisian garbage collectors are on strike against the pension reform, garbage is no longer collected in several districts. In Paris, 7,000 tons would wait on the sidewalks, according to the town hall. The question turns into a political standoff: while the mayor (PS) Anne Hidalgo supports the strike movement, the opposition rises up and demands the cleaning of the streets.
The government, of which several ministers have views on the Town Hall for 2026, did not fail to criticize the management of the situation by Anne Hidalgo. On Tuesday March 14, the prefect of police, at the request of Gérald Darmanin, the Minister of the Interior, asked the Paris City Hall to "requisition" the strikers, warning that if the city "does not follow up on the requisition, the state will take its place”.
Anne Hidalgo's entourage retorts that the mayor has "no power" anyway. The police prefecture assures that it is. In her letter sent on Tuesday and relayed by Agence France-Presse, she recalls that "the town hall has the health police on the public highway" and thus considers that it is "within its competence to request a private company or to requisition the agents".
"The right to strike is a fundamental right", reminds Point Éric Rocheblave, lawyer specializing in labor law. A right "framed by law", but which should be constrained with parsimony. In other words, requisitions should only be made in an emergency, in particular, in the case of garbage collectors, when the piling up of garbage cans poses a public health problem. The requisition must be proportionate and simply allow a minimum service.
Article 2215-1 of the General Code of Local Authorities provides that the prefect may, "in the event of an emergency", resort to requisitions from public officials as well as private employees to restore public safety in one or more municipalities. It is not explicitly said that the mayor has such power, but some, such as the Paris police headquarters, believe that he can do so as part of his duty to maintain public health.
Question of interpretation, therefore, but also legal risk-taking in such a vagueness. The requisition order can be challenged before the administrative court, and the judge will be attentive to the proportionality of the measure. Éric Rocheblave believes that "the mayor's room for maneuver is limited", the latter can only, according to the lawyer, content himself with asking the prefect to order a requisition. What Anne Hidalgo refuses to do.
If the government, via the police headquarters which depends on the Ministry of the Interior, is content to put pressure on the city for these requisitions rather than to intervene immediately, it is also because it is not certain to have the right to do so immediately. Indeed, the prefect's power of requisition is based on the urgency of restoring public sanitation, and there is nothing to indicate that the accumulated garbage cans currently pose a serious problem that requires them to be removed urgently. .
Even if all the waste from Paris were collected, it would still be necessary to be able to process it. The three incinerators of Syctom, which manages waste from Paris and the inner suburbs, being stopped, the garbage collected is sent further, to another incinerator, stored for future incineration or even buried. In 2020, during a previous strike against the pension reform, Syctom had requested – and obtained – a requisition from the prefect to unblock its incinerators. For the moment, plan B is sufficient to process all the waste collected, i.e. 75 to 80% of the usual volume, indicates Syctom.
If the capital holds the attention of the media and politicians, the situation is not only Parisian. In Nantes or Le Havre, for example, waste also accumulates on the sidewalks, without the government being moved by it or the prefects having issued requisition orders.