French strike affects Swiss rail connections

04 April, 2018, 01:13 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Above French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit Reuters

Commuters across France faced severe disruptions on Tuesday as rail workers launched three months of rolling strikes, a major test of President Emmanuel Macron's resolve to reshape the country through sweeping reforms.

The main protests against the reforms begin on Tuesday, which the media has termed "black Tuesday" with only one out of eight high-speed TGV train and one out of five regional trains likely to run.

To show their rejection to the railway reform of the government, workers of the SNCF have agreed to stop for two days out of every five, from April 3 to the end of June, meaning 36 days of distress in train traffic.

In stations like the Gare du Nord and the Gare de Lyon there were persons who fell on the railways, fainted and other emergency situations caused by crowds. The strikes of 1995 paralyzed France and forced prime minister Alain Juppe to pull the reforms - a defeat which ultimately prompted Juppe to quit.

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Other sectors could join the strike as it continues in protest at broader changes to labor laws proposed by Macron.

"We need to rid this country of its strike culture", Gabriel Attal, spokesman for Macron's Republic On The Move (LREM) party, said on April 2.

"I must say that I hear the strikers, who speak fervently at times, as much as I hear those who do not accept this strike", Mr Philippe said. She accused some unions of seeking to "politicise" the strike action. One in every three trains to Germany was to operate, while the Eurostar service connecting London, Paris and Brussels was down to three out of every four trains, the SNCF said.

Global train services also face disruption: no trains were set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. No trains are set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain.

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Macron wants to transform heavily indebted SNCF into a profit-maker.

The French president wants to phase out lucrative SNCF contracts, which give workers a job-for-life guarantee, automatic annual pay rises, a generous early retirement policy, and free rail tickets for relatives.

A meeting with train union representatives was scheduled for Thursday.

The government has sought to ease tensions with assurances that the arrival of foreign competition on French rail tracks, pencilled in for gradual rollout from 2020 onwards, could be delayed until as late as 2033 in some cases.

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"We're defending the French public service, not just rail workers", Emmanuel Grondein, head of Sud Rail, one of the four unions behind the industrial action, told Reuters.

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