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STRIKES

French rail strike hits Monday services and leaves SNCF with ‘€100 million’ bill…so far

Train services in France were once again disrupted on Monday as rolling rail strikes continued. The ongoing industrial action has so far cost the state "€100 million" said the CEO of SNCF.

French rail strike hits Monday services and leaves SNCF with '€100 million' bill...so far
AFP

The rolling strikes at French railway operator SNCF which began last week have cost the company “around 100 million euros” ($123 million) so far, the operator's chief executive Guillaume Pepy said Monday.

Workers have pledged two days of stoppages every five days to protest the government's planned overhaul of the operator, which has caused losses of “some 20 million euros per day”, Pepy told BFM television.

Pepy said the the disruptions often spill into non-strike days.

Rail workers began their strikes on two out of every five working days last week to protest the government's planned overhaul of the operator.

The strikes are set to run until the end of June.

Services have been badly hit by the strike each day.

On Monday around one in five high-speed TGV trains was running whilst no Ouigo trains – low cost TGV services – were operating.

France's regional TER trains were running a third of the usual services but the Intercité trains were badly hit with only one of six trains running.

In Paris the RER commuter services were once again hit with only one out of five trains running on the RER C whilst the RER B, which links Paris to the airports, was reduced to a third of the usual services.

The Eurostar was running three-quarters of its normal services while other international trains to Spain and Germany were running at only between a third and fifth of usual services.

 

Pepy noted “quite heavy participation” for the strike on Monday, “though there are more trains than last time”, a reference to the stoppages last week.

“From what I can see, France has not been paralysed,” Pepy said, “but clients are being heavily penalised.”

Under the reform plan, new hires would be denied the jobs-for-life and early retirement guarantees enjoyed by current rail employees, and the SNCF would be transformed into a private company whose shares are owned by the state.

The government has insisted it won't back down, while unions claim to have broad public support, with more than 510,000 euros pledged to a fund set up to compensate lost wages for striking workers.

President Emmanuel Macron, who has not spoken on the conflict publicly since it started, plans to give an hour-long televised interview at midday on
Thursday.

Macron will also address the strike during a two-hour primetime interview Sunday with BFM television and the investigative news website Mediapart.

Parliament is scheduled to begin debating the government's overhaul on Monday, though Macron has said he will implement the changes by decree in order to move quickly ahead of the opening of French passenger rail traffic to competition starting in 2020.

Monday's strike is scheduled to end at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) before resuming for another two-day stoppage on Friday.

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STRIKES

French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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