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News > France

France: Thousands of Workers Protest Against Railway Reform

  • Users wait on the Gare Saint Lazare railway station in Paris, France, April 13, 2018.

    Users wait on the Gare Saint Lazare railway station in Paris, France, April 13, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 4 June 2019
Opinion

The French reject "the new railway pact" which seeks to split up the public railway company and ends hirings.

The French National Railway Company (SNCF) called on workers to strike Tuesday to protest against a 2018 railway reform that threatens public services and deteriorates working conditions, according to the company.

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"The reform has not brought about one single positive effect," said Laurent Brun, a member of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). A "bad, harmful, poorly prepared reform" and a "socially regressive" proposal were also other descriptions used by workers to explain their discontent, as reported by Ouest France.

The CGT, the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA), the United Democratic Solidarities (SUD) and the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT) also called for rallies in Paris.

During the afternoon, in the country's capital, transportation workers will be accompanied by retired workers, railway defense committees and user associations, all of which will march to "defend public services" from Italy Square to the Montparnasse station.

"Railway workers nationwide strike in Paris! Against railway reform and ​​​​​​​suffering at work! June 4, Public Services. ​​​​​​​

The French Senate approved a measure in June 2018 that allows private companies to compete with the state SNFC and bid to construct new rail lines throughout the country by December. According to local media, current rail workers may be forced to take transfers to these private enterprises, or risk losing their jobs. The law als ends new hiring of railway employees starting from Jan. 1, 2020.

The railway company has currently more than 147,000 employees, most of whom have had stable jobs with retirement at 52 years of age for conductors and the rest of the staff at 57.

Aymeric Seassau, departmental secretary of the Communist Party in Loire-Atlantique said of the reform last January: "Train users do not need competition for service to improve and be of better quality. What is needed is that the state invest in infrastructure, equipment and people to meet the needs of the population."

With the reform, proposed by President Emmanuel Macron administration, however, the public train workers will lose protection from collective dismissals, among other things.

According to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the government will invest up to US$4.3 billion in the network's aging infrastructure built in the 1970s.

As part of this modernization program, the government also promised railway workers it would erase a US$40 million SNCF debt.​​​​​​​

The work stoppages aren't expected to shut down the rail system altogether Tuesday. According to local media, however, rail traffic has been sporadic since Monday in Valence and Lyon since Monday. There was irregular transportation services in Saint, Bel, Saint-Paul, Brignais, Lozanne, Puy, Saint Etienne, West Lyonnais and Montlucon-Bourges.

Protests will occur until Wednesday 8:00 a.m. when normal circulation will begin to recover gradually.​​​​​​​

This is the second natiowide railroad workers' strike since the reform was passed when employees, over three months, paralyzed rail transport services during 36 days.

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