Train passengers in France face yet more travel misery while rail strikes lose steam

Rail passengers in France faced more disrupted services on the tenth day of train strikes against the French government's proposed rail reforms on Tuesday. But the number of strikers has taken a dip.

Train passengers in France face yet more travel misery while rail strikes lose steam
Commuters walk on a platform as they leave an RER train at Saint-Lazare station in Paris on April 24th, 2018. Photo: AFP

The management of France's national rail company SNCF announced that one TGV and Intercités train out of three, as well as two Transilien and TER out of five were operating on Tuesday.

In the Paris region, half of the RER A and RER B trains were circulating while only one RER C and RER E out of three were operating.
Meanwhile, on RER D two out of five trains were in circulation and on the international lines, the traffic was described as “undisrupted” by the SNCF.
Thalys services were operating “almost” normally and 80 percent of Eurostar trains were in service.
However, there was no service between France and Italy, just one in three trains operating between France and Switzerland and three out of four between France and Germany.
Trains to and from Spain were not affected.
Despite the continued disruption due to the ongoing industrial action, participation in the strike is decreasing, according to the latest figures reported by SNCF. 
According to the rail company, the rate of strikers taking part on Monday, the first day of the current two-day strike, was the lowest since the industrial action began — at 17.45 percent.
This figure is significantly lower compared to the rate of 33.9 percent found on April 3rd, the first day of strikes, a fact which led SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy on Sunday to proclaim that, “The strike is eroding slowly”. 
Monday saw 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.
Strikes to last into the summer?
French rail unions recently 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.
“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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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.