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France

France to grind to a halt

media Striking rail workers in June 2014 Reuters/Stephane Mahe

Rail strikes in France are set to bring widespread disruption across the country from Tuesday night, although the Paris Metro and international services will be less affected. The industrial action by workers in France’s state-owned SNCF operator begins at 7pm Tuesday and ends at 8am on Thursday.

The SNCF said that intercity night trains will be cancelled from 7pm Paris Time (GMT+1) on Tuesday. These trains, as well as regional lines across the country, will be running a one-third service during the day.

Transport strike

On Wednesday, the Transilien regional rail service in the Ile de France region around Paris will be operating one train in three.

High-speed TGV services in the east of France will be reduced to a half service, while in the north, west and south of France, only one in three TGV trains will be running.

In Paris, the Metro and RER services in and around the city will be largely unaffected by the strike, except for the RER B line that connects Charles de Gaulle airport with the city, which will see two thirds of trains cancelled.

International services will also be affected, with 20 percent of Eurostar train cancelled.

In a rare show of unity, the strike was called by the four main unions representing France’s rail workers – the CFDT, CGT Sud and Unsa. It is the most widespread industrial action on France’s railways since 2013.

All the participating unions are demanding that extra staff be recruited, as well as pay rises and guarantees about their working conditions.

They also say that management of the state rail system is “catastrophic” and that so far in 2016, 1,400 trains were cancelled because there was insufficient staff to run them.

Since 2003, the SNCF has reduced its workforce by 25,000 by not replacing staff as they retire. In 2015, the SNCF had just under 150,000 employees.

Other unions and student groups have also called for protests which will coincide with work stoppages the French national rail company SNCF over working conditions.

Labour reform

The strikes coincide with negotiations this week aimed at salvaging its proposed labour reforms as it faces fierce opposition against a draft bill.

Unveiled in mid-February, the El Khomri law, which is named after Economy Minister Myriam El Khomri, is designed to give employers more flexibility in hiring and firing, but critics say it unduly threatens job security.

The reforms, which would put almost all aspects of the country's strictly codified labour relations up for negotiation between employers and unions, have infuriated labour unions.

The Force Ouvrière (FO) union has said a revision was out of the question, repeating its demand that the proposed reforms be scrapped altogether.

On Sunday Valls insisted: "This labour law means more transparency for businesses and more protection for employees."

When asked about rumours that he could put at stake his position in the government if the reforms are not passed, Valls said: "I never did and I will not blackmail to resign".

The reforms, which would put almost all aspects of the country's strictly codified labour relations up for negotiation between employers and unions, have infuriated labour unions.

The Force Ouvrière (FO) union has said a revision was out of the question, repeating its demand that the proposed reforms be scrapped altogether.

 

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