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French trains still disrupted by wildcat strike on Sunday

French rail services ground to a halt in parts of the country Sunday as workers walked off the job for a third day in a dispute over train staffing levels.

French trains still disrupted by wildcat strike on Sunday
A train arrives at the Saint-Jean railway station in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on July 22,2019. Photo: Georges Gobet / AFP
Services in the Paris suburbs, the northeastern Champagne-Ardenne region and the southern Occitanie region, which includes Toulouse and Montpellier, were particularly affected.
   
The industrial action began on Friday after a train in north-east France slammed into a truck at a level crossing, leaving 11 people injured.   
 
The train driver was himself among those hurt but being the sole employee of state railways company SNCF on board had to help take care of passengers.
   
Unions said the incident highlighted what they say is a problem of understaffing on trains, notably the absence of ticket inspectors on some lines. 
 
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Since Friday, staff have been exercising their “right to withdraw” their labour — a clause that allows workers to walk off the job in case of “clear and present danger to their life or health.”
   
SNCF's management has accused the workers of abusing that right to indulge in a wildcat strike on a busy weekend for train travel, at the start of the mid-autumn school holidays.
   
It argues that some train lines have not had ticket inspectors for decades.

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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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