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  • French labour union members and workers gather in front of the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, January 2, 2020.

    French labour union members and workers gather in front of the French oil giant Total refinery in Donges, France, January 2, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 January 2020
Opinion

Although negotiations between the unions and the government are due to recommence on Jan. 7, hopes of some sort of agreement are slim.

The ongoing train strike in France in opposition to pension reforms proposed by the government has become the largest continuous period of industrial action in the history of the country’s state rail company.

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Entering its 29th consecutive day, the current strike by SNCF workers against President Emmanuel Macron’s bid to overhaul France’s pensions has surpassed the previous record of 28 days, which was set between 1986-87.

Almost half of the country’s rail services were canceled on Thursday nationwide while in the capital Paris just two metro lines were in full operation while 13 other lines were only active during rush hour periods.

The strike in 1986-87, which also took place over the holiday period and into the new year, was called in a bid to land better working conditions.

In 1995, another rail strike organized in opposition to pension reforms proposed prime minister Alain Juppe (whose political heir, Edouard Philippe, is the current prime minister) lasted 22 days and eventually forced the government to withdraw the plans.

However, in his New Year’s address on Tuesday, Macron promised to push on with the pension reforms, which looks to replace individual retirement plans with a universal points-based system.

In response, Philippe Martinez, who leads the CGT, one of the country’s foremost unions, called a fresh strike for Thursday.

“We are calling on all French to mobilize, to go on strike because, faced with a president who plays to complacency and believes that everything is going well in the country, the alarms must be stronger.”

The CGT has also called for industrial action at refineries on Jan. 7 and Jan. 10, a move that France’s secretary of state for the economy and finances said would be “illegal.”

In just over a month, the CGT has collected more than a million euros in support of the strikers, with the support of more than 18,000 donors.

Union representatives in Lyon on Thursday signed a new check for 50,000 euros for drivers striking outside the city’s main train station.

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