French Rail Workers Launch Strike

04 April, 2018, 02:04 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • French strike affects Swiss rail connections

Meanwhile, France is set to be hit by even more strikes on Tuesday, with garbage collectors, some energy sector staff, and Air France employees walking off from their jobs.

The industrial action is a major test, too, of how much influence France's once fearsome unions - whose membership has plunged to just 11 percent - still carry.

In France, workers from the national carrier walked out on Tuesday following a dispute over pay.

The unions accuse President Macron, a centrist ex-investment banker, of seeking to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism", and are concerned that plans to turn the SNCF into a publicly listed company, even with the state owning 100 percent of shares, could eventually lead to the rail operator being privatized - something the government denies.

Three-quarters of Eurostar trains to London and Brussels will run Monday and Thalys trains towards Belgium and the Netherlands will operate nearly normally, but there will be none at all to Spain, Italy or Switzerland.At Air France, where staff is striking for the fifth time to demand a pay rise, managers said 75 percent of flights would operate.

As well testing Macron's reform mettle, the rolling strike will also challenge the resolve of unions to maintain a common stance.

According to the BBC, SNCF senior manager Alain Krakovitch told Le Parisien newspaper that only about 12 per cent of high-speed TGV trains would run today.

At the Gare de Lyon station in eastern Paris, platforms were so packed that commuters spilled over onto the tracks as they waited for infrequent trains.

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The aim is to open up the state railways to competition from 2023, in line with European Union requirements.

Workers now enjoy generous contract and benefits, but the French government is looking to reform contracts for new workers.

"I hear that there may be fears on the part of the railway workers".

While Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said labour unions were making the reform plans into a political issue.

The government has painted the rail workers as enjoying outdated privileges, a notion the unions reject.

The CGT has called for public and private sector workers nationwide to strike on April 19, but in a sign of union division, private sector unions have so far declined. "The salaries aren't incredible, the work conditions are hard, and for some it means working every other weekend", Mr Martinez said. "We have been asking for the same thing for several weeks - that the government completely reconsider its plan".

The walkout - which started on Monday evening and is to last through Wednesday morning - is also reducing train traffic on the Eurostar to Britain and trains to Germany. No trains are expected to be operating between France and Italy, Spain and Switzerland, the railway company said.

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