Rail workers, backed by the powerful CGT union, are set to strike. Again. And the strikes will last two days each week, starting from Wednesday next week.
And it doesn't look like they're going to relent until they get promises for improved pay and working conditions.
“We have filed an advanced notice that is unlimited and renewable, for 48 hours each week over Wednesdays and Thursdays,” a CGT spokesperson said, according to L'Express newspaper.
The SUD-rail union, the third largest for SNCF workers, has also called for an indefinite strike from Wednesday, May 18th.
Rail workers have gone on one-day strikes three times since the start of March, most recently two weeks ago, in attempts to flex their muscles to try and influence negotiations between unions and bosses.
They say they want rail network SNCF to improve conditions – and the negotiations are significant because of what is at stake.
SNCF is preparing for the world of competition that's being forced on them by the European Union. The French rail service will be opened up to competition in stages over the coming years, firstly freight traffic, which has already occurred, then passenger services like the TGVs from 2020. SNCF wants to be ready.
The operator wants to harmonize the working conditions and rules between SNCF workers paid by the state and rail workers who work for private companies.
Unions claim it will lead to “social dumping” and leave everyone worse off.
It's a very sensitive issue in France, where rail workers are often criticized for being too privileged.
SNCF has specified that they're focused on changing working times to adapt better to the 35-hour working week, and making staff more flexible and available to do more varied tasks.
Rail bosses have vowed not to touch the main privileges like social security, protection from lay-offs, and pensions.