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French rail unions threaten to extend strikes into July and August

French rail unions have threatened to prolong their strike action into July and August, meaning those planning to travel around France during the summer holiday period could be set for travel misery.

French rail unions threaten to extend strikes into July and August
People walk on a platform near a train at Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris, on April 23rd. Photo: AFP
Rail unions announced the possible move at the start of another two-day rolling strike which began on Monday. 
 
“We are looking at the calendar,” a union representative told the French press. “We want to warn the French as soon as possible so that they can organize their holidays.”
 
The CGT, Unsa, Sud Rail and CFDT unions, which are due to meet mid-week, say that the possibility of prolonging the action into July and August is becoming increasingly likely.
 
“This government does not want to negotiate, it is them pushing us to extend [the strikes] into July and August,” a union boss told the French press on Sunday. 
 
In a interview on French television on Sunday, head of the hardline CGT trade union Philippe Martinez did not rule out prolonging the strikes but he said that it is up to “the railway workers to decide whether or not they continue their movement”, which they started in early April.
 
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'Privatisation is hell': Protesting French rail workers defend their strikesPhoto: AFP

At the moment the strikes are set to continue until June 28th. 
 
Head of France's national rail company SNCF Guillaume Pepy has tried to reassure users, saying he does not believe there will be a summer strike.
 
He said the company will ensure trains for people taking exams before the summer break and said the strike would not continue during the summer.
 
“There will be no strike this summer because rail workers are responsible people,” said Pepy.
 
Monday sees the start of another two days of strikes by rail workers over the shake-up which has been causing havoc for French commuters two days out of every five since the start of April.
   
Rail unions object to plans to strip new SNCF recruits of jobs-for-life and early retirement, part of Macron's bid to reduce the SNCF's nearly €50 billion of debt.
   
The unions are gambling on public opinion turning in their favour but polls suggest an opposite trend, with just 43 percent backing the strike in an Ifop poll released Sunday.
   
The scale of the disruption has also eased over the course of the month as fewer workers continue with the strike.
   
On Monday, 35 percent of high-speed trains are set to operate — up from just an eighth at the beginning of the month.
 
The strikes have caused major travel headaches for the 4.5 million daily rail users in France although they are causing less disruption than when they first started on April 3rd when only one in eight TGV services was running. 

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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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