• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French rail strike: Unions extend action again

The Local/AFP · 16 Jun 2014, 13:45

Published: 16 Jun 2014 13:45 GMT+02:00

LATEST:

  • Rail workers vote to continue their strike into Tuesday
  • Rail strike enters sixth day
  • First day of end-of-school exams hit by action
  • French PM 'deeply regrets' the 'irresponsible' strike
  • CLICK HERE for ino about trains in real time

France's longest rail strike in years entered its second week on Monday, causing major disruptions in a crucial test for President Francois Hollande's embattled Socialist government.

Train workers voted on Monday to continue the strike for another 24 hours, which stretches the walk-out to Tuesday, when lawmakers are set to debate the contentious rail reform that prompted the action.The strike has crippled France's rail network, disrupting the plans of millions of travellers as the country's crucial tourist season enters its peak.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls vowed the government would not back down despite the protest, calling the strike "useless and irresponsible".

"We don't see how it (the strike) makes sense when talks are continuing and the government's doors remain open," Valls told France Info radio.

The head of the SNCF rail operator, Guillaume Pepy, said the strike had already cost 80 million euros ($108 million) in lost revenues and reimbursements.

The SNCF said up to two-thirds of trains were cancelled on some high-speed TGV lines, while only one in two trains were running on other lines.

Less than half of scheduled trains were running on inter-city lines and only a quarter on Paris region lines.

International lines to Spain, Italy and Switzerland were also disrupted, but Eurostar links to London and Thalys lines to Brussels and Amsterdam were operating as normal.

In one weekend incident, 2,300 passengers on two  TGV trains were trapped for hours overnight from Saturday to Sunday after a power cut that officials said may have been the result of vandalism.

On Monday, the SNCF was forced to implement costly special measures - including bringing in thousands of extra workers - to ensure high school students were given priority places as they headed to sit their final exams.

The strike was prompted by a reform aimed at tackling the rail sector's soaring debt, which stands at more than 40 billion euros and is set to almost double by 2025 if nothing changes.

'Nothing to lose'

Story continues below…

It looks to cut costs by uniting the SNCF train operator and RFF railway network and to eventually open up parts of the service to competition.

Some unions signed up to the reforms after obtaining promises from the government. But two unions still backing the strikes, the CGT and Sud-Rail, rejected the accord and say the plans will lead to job losses without reducing the debt.

The strike has been the biggest industrial action since Hollande's government took office two years ago.

Hollande is struggling to bring France's deficit under control, kickstart the country's stagnant economy and stem rising joblessness.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French fuel crisis latest: 4,600 petrol stations run dry
Photo: AFP

Some 40 percent of petrol stations run dry in France.

France hit by fresh strikes as nuclear workers join protest
Photo: AFP

Trains, flights, nuclear power, fuel depots and oil refineries are all hit by a new round of strikes.

French hiker found alive after five nights in Pyrenees hole
Photo: AFP

A "miracle" survival story from the Pyrenees.

How the fuel crisis is harming the French economy
Photos: AFP

Experts are saying the current fuel crisis will have "serious consequences" for French business. Here's how.

France to see 90,000 security staff on patrol at Euro 2016
Members of French riot police take part in a mock terrorist attack exercise at the Georges Pompidou stadium in Valence. Photo: AFP

France has vowed to do "everything possible to avoid a terrorist attack" at the Euro 2016 tournament.

List of French targets found in Adeslam's home
Photo: AFP

Areas of Paris, Marseille and Toulouse were on the list of possible targets for an attack.

The trials and tribulations of moving to rural France
Moving to rural France is not all rosé and cheese. Photo: Philippe Rouzet/Flickr

Moving to rural France can be a dream come true, but it doesn't always work out as planned.

Opinion - Strikes in France
Why the French are right to go on strike
Opinion: Why the French are entirely right to go on strike all the time. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

There are good reasons why the French go on strike a lot.

LATEST: Where in France the petrol shortage is biting
Photo: Essence

The latest estimates say some 4,000 of the country’s 12,000 petrol stations are now out of fuel or running low.

IN PICTURES: The fuel crisis around France
Photo: AFP

The fuel crisis in France has made for some striking photos.

Society
Opinion: Why the French are absolutely right to go on strike
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
Here's why both sides despise France's labour reforms
National
Who is really to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
Lifestyle
New map reveals Paris flat prices by Metro station
Culture
Paris: Here's how to find French cinema in English
Culture
How to say 'OUCH' in French (and ten other sounds)
National
Get ready: France to be hit by week of transport strikes
Culture
France readies for first national 'motorway party'
National
Is this the eco-solution to France's wild-peeing plague?
Sport
Paris mayor wants Seine to be 'swimmable' before Olympics
National
IN PICTURES: Police car torched in Paris protests
National
Why there's another rail strike in France and more to come
National
Why does 'everyone in France hate the police'?
2,733
jobs available