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Visiting France

French rail strike weakens as rail reform bill amended

media Railworkers and other trade unionists demonstrate in support of the strike on Thursday AFP

The French rail strike showed signs of petering out on Friday after parliament amended the reform that sparked it. Prime Minister Manuel Valls appealed to striking railworkers to end their industrial action. The northern city of Lille pulled out of the strike on Friday.

Mass meetings at Rennes in Brittany and Toulouse in the south-west voted to end the action on Thursday and management claimed that only 10.48 per cent of the workforce were on strike that day.

The SNCF rail company promised better services on Friday:

  • Eight out of 10 mainline trains to run;
  • Eighty extra TGV trains were to be put in service for weekend departures, eight out of 10 in the north, two-thirds in the west, six out of 10 in the south-east;
  • Eurostar and Thalys running normally;
  • East-west trains running almost normally;
  • Six out of 10 intercity trains running;
  • Two-thirds of trains in the Paris region;
  • The Paris metro is not affected.

Valls declared that it was time to finish the strike after the first reading in the lower house of parliament finished on Thursday.

Amendments have taken into account some of the strikers’ concerns, the government claims, protecting the status of rail employees across the new company and an apparent easing of the debt owed by the part of the company that will handle infrastructure.

SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy also called for the strike to end, claiming that it had already cost 160 million euros, the equivalent of 15 new trains.

Travel-card holders will be given 10 days of free travel in July to compensate for the effects of the strike, he announced.

Unions were divided in their response to the amended reform bill, which goes to the Senate on 9-11 July.

The Unsa, which supported the strike although it had not called it, said there had been “significant advances”, while the general secretary of the CGT federation, Tierry Lepaon, said the action had reached a “turning point” and had begun to pay off.

But Gilbert Garrel, the leader of the CGT’s railworkers’ branch which is the biggest union on the network, dismissed the changes as window-dressing, while another union, Sud, called for the strike to continue.
 

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