• France edition
 
Rail strike
Tensions mount as French rail strike goes on
The misery for commuters goes on as the French rail strike enters its seventh day. Photo: AFP

Tensions mount as French rail strike goes on

Published: 17 Jun 2014 14:42 GMT+02:00
Updated: 17 Jun 2014 14:42 GMT+02:00

LATEST: 

  • SNCF report 'improvement' in rail traffic on Tuesday
  • Controversial rail reform goes before parliament
  • Three out of four French people are against the strike, a new poll says
  • Strikers protest outside Assembly and block tracks at Montparnasse station
  • Strikers vote to continue their action into Wednesday - the eighth consecutive day

Tensions rose in France on Tuesday as the longest rail strike in years rolled on for a second week and lawmakers debated a contentious debt-cutting reform plan at the heart of the crippling walkout.

On Tuesday unions voted to extend their action for a further 24-hours until Wednesday evening just as lawmakers, most of whom support the bill, began looking at the proposals in the National Assembly.

As MPs discussed the reform inside the parliament, outside there were violent scenes when riot police and rail union workers briefly clashed. Reporters on the scene reported that flares and bottles were hurled in the direction of riot cops, who protected the entrance to the parliament, as tweeted by @julien_langlet at the scene.

Other reports said strikers had thrown flares onto tracks at Montparnasse station in an attempt to block trains.

In the afternoon, up to 300 strikers forced their way into the office of public television France 3 in the eastern city of Lyon, demanding a live debate with Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, but later left without getting their request met.

In the southern port city of Marseille, meanwhile, their peers took direct action by addressing passengers in the railway station's main hall.

"There is a real rising anger at the way we have been singled out for blame" by the government, said Philippe Goalard, a rail worker since 1995.

"Perhaps we haven't communicated enough... and in this second week of the strike we need to explain more.

"There was some better news for commuters and travellers on Tuesday with France's rail operator SNCF forecasting a "notable improvement" in the number of trains running.

While TGV trains continue to be affected with six out of ten trains running on the North and West Coast main lines and four out of ten on the main south-east axis, in Paris things appeared to be improving, especially on the notorious RER B that serves the airports.

SNCF reported that there would be one train every ten minutes running from Gare du Nord on Tuesday. RER lines C, D and E will also be affected although RER A has been spared any disruption.

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

SNCF reiterated their call for the public not to travel by train unless it was absolutely necessary. For more information on the trains that are running CLICK HERE.

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

It looks to cut costs by bringing together 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 the CGT and Sud-Rail unions rejected the accord saying the plans will lead to job losses without reducing the debt.

Hours before the bill was due to go before parliament Transport Secretary Frédéric Cuvillier told French radio that "he didn't understand the arguments put forward by the strikers and that they had nothing to do with the reform.

"The law will pass, it will be voted through," Cuvillier said.

The great French rail strike: What is all the fuss about?

The two unions CGT and Sud-Rail extended their action into a seventh day after talks with management from SNCF broke down. 

The secretary general of the hard-line CGT union, Gilbert Garrel, dismissed a meeting with management on Monday - the first since the strike began last Tuesday evening - as a "provocation".

Garrel said the head of the SNCF rail operator, Guillaume Pepy, had "closed the door" on the strikers "by saying that our demands were off the agenda".

The talks on Monday focused on a number of issues including salaries, working hours and hiring, but did not touch on the reform plans, both the SNCF and CGT said.

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.

SNCF chief Pepy said the strike had already cost €80 million ($108 million) in lost revenues and compensation payouts.

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

The strike has been the biggest industrial action since Hollande's government took office two years ago, but it seems the public have had enough.

An opinion poll published in the Parisien newspaper on Tuesday revealed that three out of four people were against the strike.

The poll also showed that only one in three French understood the reasons behind the strike.

Exasperation mounted with five organisations representing rail commuters taking steps to fuse into a single, nationwide entity and demanding an immediate end to the strike.

"The absence of transport at a time when young people are taking (final) exams is unacceptable," the newly baptised National Coordination of Rail Commuters (CNUT) said.

'We're pissed off!' French anger grows over strike

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

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

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swiss bankers pay €1bn in French fraud case
Swiss banker UBS has made a huge payment in a French fraud case. Photo: AFP

Swiss bankers pay €1bn in French fraud case

A Swiss banking behemoth accused of advising wealthy French people on how to conceal their money in Switzerland has paid a court-ordered bail of €1 billion. READ  

French welfare cuts
'Having kids in France will soon be a luxury'
Will cuts threaten France's health birth rate? Photo: Philippe Demazes/AFP

'Having kids in France will soon be a luxury'

Family associations and sections of the French media have lined up to blast the government for its plans to cut key family benefits, which they say will harm one of France’s greatest economic strengths – it’s high fertility rate. READ  

Woman, 76, raped 'for telling youths to be quiet'
A 76-year-old woman was brutally raped in retaliation for telling some men to quiet down. Photo: AFP

Woman, 76, raped 'for telling youths to be quiet'

After a 76-year-old woman told a group of young men to quiet down outside her apartment building near Paris, they retaliated by brutally raping her and then looting her home, according to reports in France. READ  

French workers threaten to blow up factory
Workers at a vacuum factory in France have threatened to blow it up. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

French workers threaten to blow up factory

With boss-napping apparently a passé option, French workers angry over planned layoffs at a vacuum factory have threatened to blow up the plant where they work. READ  

Paris to unveil new app to help find a taxi
Paris has created a new app that is meant to make finding a cab a bit easier. Photo: AFP

Paris to unveil new app to help find a taxi

Paris will roll out its brand new smartphone app on Wednesday which is supposed to make the sometimes impossible task of hailing a taxi in the French capital a little easier. But will it be of any use? READ  

French pharmacies shut up shop in protest
It'll likely be harder than usual to find an open pharmacy in France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

French pharmacies shut up shop in protest

All but a handful of pharmacies in France will be closed on Tuesday as part of a nationwide strike against government plans to weaken the monopolies held by self-employed professionals like lawyers, doctors and notaries. READ  

Champions League
PSG will play to win against Barcelona: Blanc
PSG coach Laurent Blanc says his side will stick to their footballing principles against Barcelona. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

PSG will play to win against Barcelona: Blanc

PSG coach Laurent Blanc said his team will play to win against Spanish giants Barcelona when they meet in the Champions League Group F clash in Paris on Tuesday. Blanc's side however will have to do without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic. READ  

Guest blog - French tax breaks
'Starting a company in France is not that taxing'
Setting up a company in France might not mean the tax burden that you had imagined. Photo: Shutterstock

'Starting a company in France is not that taxing'

The words "France" and "taxes" are as synonymous as "pain" and "chocolat" but when it comes to setting up a company in the country, guest blogger Katya Puyraud, from Euro Start Entreprises says things are not as bad as they seem at first. And the paperwork is a positive! READ  

French public debt rises above €2,000,000,000,000
France's public debt has now passed the two trillion mark, officially. Photo: AFP

French public debt rises above €2,000,000,000,000

The depressing figures for the French economy just keep on coming. On Tuesday it was revealed that the country's public debt had passed the symbolic two trillion mark. In real numbers that's €2,000,000,000,000. READ  

IN IMAGES - Floods
South of France hit by devastating floods
The southern French city of Montpellier has been left under water by the floods. Photo: Sylvain Thomas/AFP

South of France hit by devastating floods

Parts of southern France were once again hit by devastating floods on Monday that left the city of Montpellier under water and a state of natural disaster declared in around 60 towns and villages. Here are some videos and images. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
National
Top French chefs want banned bird on menu
National
VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se