French Rail Strikes For The Next 3 Months
French and European rail networks will be severely disrupted after rail workers announced that they will be striking two out of five days for the next three months following President Macron's released plans to overhaul France’s rail road system and alter labor laws.
Dubbed as “Black Tuesday,” on April 3rd at 7PM local time, the French state railway, SNCF (a far-left CGT union) will lead a strike to protest Macron’s proposed reforms, which they believe would lead to the privatization of railways. They also are demanding higher wages and an end to precarious jobs.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has denied these allegations, stating that the proposal aims to change a status that is “no longer tenable.” The policy plans to abolish jobs-for-life at SNCF whose debts, according to Reuters, top €45 billion (or $55.52 billion).
In February, SNCF warned of protests and possible strikes over the reforms, as the new policy would end the benefits that employees have received as a nationalized firm.
Spokesman for rail union Sud Rail, Eric Santinelli, commented on the strike, stating: “We’re striking for several reasons, but at the top of the list is the government wanting to open the service to competition…They don’t want to do it in a progressive manner, they want to do it in an accelerated manner.”
As the first day of the strike commences, neither SNCF nor the French government has made it clear who will concede first, as the demonstrations are perceived as a test of their resolve and credibility.
Four main rail unions are observing the strike, and many services have been curtailed. 77 percent of SNCF drivers are on strike with 34 percent of their overall staff joining them.
Only one in eight high-speed TGVs, and one in five regional trains will be operating during the two days.
The protests have resulted in major overcrowding on buses with commuter lines via train being cut. According to DiRIF, a French website that measures car traffic around Paris, they recorded about 260 miles of jams at rush hour.
The strikes have impacted surrounding European states, with 75 percent of Eurostar trains running, and a halt in services to Spain, Switzerland and Italy.
Air France employees are also joining the protests, demanding a 6 percent pay raise, leading to the cancellation of 25 percent of French flights.
This, in conjunction with a EU air traffic technical system failure, resulted in more than 15,000 flights across Europe being delayed or cancelled.
Whether the strikes will continue for the next three months will be tested as President Macron faces pressure to ease his policies to cease the national and international disruption.
According to French newspaper Le Jdd, 51 percent of people want the government to go after the reform, with 46 percent of people finding the strike to be justified, and 72 percent believing that this will not prevent the government from passing the reformation. Should Macron be able to pass this legislation, it will pave the way for his following proposals on education and pensions.