Hopes raised that French rail strikes may be called off

After 19 hours of tense negotiations there are hopes that the rail strikes that have caused widespread travel chaos can be called off.

Hopes raised that French rail strikes may be called off
Will French unions finally end their strike? Photo: AFP

Is there finally an end in sight to the rail strikes in France?

With three days to go before the big kick off for Euro 2016 there was reason for optimism on Tuesday that the rail strikes that have badly disrupted French train services in recent weeks may be called off.

Unions who have been organising the strikes held mammoth negotiations with the bosses of France’s rail operator SNCF, that went on for 19 hours and only finished at 4.30am on Tuesday.

Following the talks SNCF’s boss Guillaume Pepy announced “the talks have been a success” and said he was “confident” of a resolution.

SNCF workers have been striking partly in opposition to the labour reforms but also and chiefly in a bid to improve their own working conditions. As is often the case in France, the unions went on to strike to flex their muscles ahead of negotiations with SNCF.

Following those lengthy negotiations an agreement was drawn up on the thorny issue of the working week, which SNCF hopes will be signed by strikers as soon as possible.

“There is no longer a reason to go on strike,” said Pepy after confirming several concessions had been made to the unions.

According to Pepy, the rolling strike that began on May 31st has cost the company €300 million.

The hardline CGT and SUD-rail, the two unions who have led the strikes have the power to veto the agreement. While the CGT has remain tight-lipped so far SUD-rail have suggested they won't be signing it.

All unions, which also include the more reformist CFDT and Unsa will have one week to decide whether or not to sign the agreement, which meant the strike continued on Tuesday.

The unions have come under pressure from the government to end their strike with the Euro 2016 football competition kicking off on Friday, meaning tens of thousands of fans will be on the move across France.

“They need to know when to end a strike,” said President François Hollande on Monday.

But his plea was ignored on Tuesday as the disruption to train services continued.

Only four in ten Intercité trains were running one in two Transilien commuter trains in the Paris region and it was the same number for RER trains.

Almost two thirds of TGV trains were running but only six out ten TER regional trains.

However as The Local's Oliver Gee pointed out, it is still possible to travel around France by train, despite the disruptions. 

You'll just need a little patience.

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