Thursday 21 June 2018

Unions resolute after French commuters hit by further rail worker strikes

About four in five high-speed trains were not running, with further walkouts scheduled for later in the week.

French railway workers demonstrate in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP/PA)
French railway workers demonstrate in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP/PA)

By Associated Press Reporter

Commuters coped with another day of disrupted train services in France as unions insisted on Monday they would not back down from a series of strikes that is expected to continue later in the week.

Some 80% of French high-speed trains were out of operation as rail workers entered their fourth day of what the unions promised would be periodic rolling strikes until June. About a quarter of international trains to and from France also were affected.

The next round of walkouts is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. The unions have set a strike schedule that calls for work stoppages lasting two or four days per week.

“It’s intolerable because we’re all working,” commuter Christelle Gedin said on Monday at Paris’ Saint-Lazare station.

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France’s national SNCF rail authority forecast a resumption of regular domestic high-speed train service for Tuesday, which is not set as a strike day.

SNCF said service would be close to normal for international lines but between 20% and 40% of trains not on high-speed domestic routes would be cancelled.

The unions are protesting French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to revoke a special status that allows rail drivers to retain jobs and other benefits for life. The government wants to do away with the protections to make the rail sector more competitive.

SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pepy told BFM TV channel that the public rail company, including its freight department, has lost about 100 million euro (£87 million) since the strikes started last week.

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Empty platforms at rush hour during the strike action in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP)

Several hundred union activists protested in Paris as legislators in the National Assembly began debate on Monday on the rail reforms sought by Mr Macron’s government.

A few protesters hurled bottles while others waved flares or carried union flags as riot police stood guard, but the protest ended peacefully.

“First of all, we are defending our status and that’s a real thing, and secondly we are defending our public services in France,” striking rail worker Kamel Aroup said.

Supporters are crowdfunding online to help striking workers who are giving up their wages during the walkouts.

Press Association

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