French rail union calls for strike on first weekend of summer holidays

Holidaymakers in France might have to change their travel plans after France's main rail union the CGT, proposed to continue the long-running rail strikes to coincide with the first weekend of the summer holidays.

French rail union calls for strike on first weekend of summer holidays

France's rail unions could risk the wrath of French holidaymakers and go on strike on the first weekend of the summer holidays.

The CGT, which is the most influential union among rail workers, has proposed extending the strikes until Saturday July 7th, the first day of the grandes vacances and the day when many French head off on holiday.

The rolling strikes, which began on April 3rd, are due to come to an end on June 28th but according to Le Monde newspaper, the CGT union has proposed to the other three trade unions to extend them into July.

The CGT is proposing to hold further strikes on Monday July 2nd, Friday July 6th and Saturday July 7th according to Le Monde.

The CGT will meet with the other unions on Tuesday to discuss the option. The other unions are set to hold talks with members before deciding whether or not to join the CGT.

Last week the CGT gave notice that it was prepared to continue the long running strike action in protest against the government rail reforms.

Laurent Brun, the head of CGT rail workers said: “We will continue through the month of July. For how long? We will see. It's not a question of just stopping at a certain date, so long as the government is trying to force its way through,” he said.

Those reforms were adopted by parliament this week.

While the two days strikes, held every five days, have been gradually weakening over the weeks, they have still been causing disruption to rail services, especially regional TER and Intercité trains.

While the CGT is the main rail workers union, if they were to continue the strikes without the support of the other unions, the impact on services will likely be much reduced.

SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy had spoken previously of his confidence that unions would not risk disrupting France's sacred summer holidays by continuing their strikes, calling rail workers “responsible people”.

The problem for trade unions is that this week French senators approved the reform of the debt-laden state rail operator SNCF, handing President Emmanuel Macron a key victory in his push to reform wide swathes of France's economy.

The government pushed through the emblematic shake-up of train services despite stiff resistance from rail workers and their unions, who have carried out their longest strike in three decades in an attempt to derail the plan.

“The law has been passed definitively, and it will be applied,” Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said after the Senate voted to pass the measure, its final legislative hurdle.

“Unions don't make the laws, parliament does. And parliament has listened extensively to the unions,” added Gerard Cornu, the senator in Macron's Republic on the Move party who spearheaded the rail law.

“The strike no longer serves any purpose,” he said.



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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.