French rail company SNCF ‘has too many staff and pays them too much’

French rail operator SNCF has too many staff and pays them too much. That is the conclusion of the Court of Auditors, in a report that risks inflaming further tensions with employees.

French rail company SNCF 'has too many staff and pays them too much'
SNCF staff inspect a section of track in the French Alps. Photo: AFP

A large number of SNCF staff are preparing for 'unlimited' strike action over December and the company has been hit with several smaller industrial actions this autumn as staff say they are demoralised and under pressure.

But the report from the Court of Auditors published today criticised the company for failing to control its wages bill and streamline its staffing.


SNCF has abolished 6,000 full time equivalent posts since 2012, but the auditors' report says this is not enough and more needs to be done to implement technical changes that will decrease staffing levels.

The report also noted that SNCF is using about 500 temporary workers every year to help with its staffing.

The company was also severely criticised for failing to manage its wage bill.

Wage increases at the company are automatic based on time served, not dependent on seniority or skill level, and end-of-year bonuses are also not linked to performance.

The report acknowledges that the current leaders at SNCF inherited many of the problems they face, but suggested that the company need to do more in making its dialogue with unions efficient and productive.

This could be something of a challenge for SNCF, as the company was hit by two separate unexpected strikes this autumn – one over safety issues and one over local pay agreements at a maintenance depot – and faces major strike action from December 5th as unions stage a co-ordinated protest over the government's planned pension reforms.

Employees at SNCF are among many public sector workers in France who over the years have negotiated 'special regimes' on pensions which allows them to retire early, in some cases at the age of 50.

The SNCF staff also have several other perks due to a 'special status' that has been in place for railway employees since 1920, when the then-fairly-new industry was struggling to attract recruits.

Among the things on offer are enhanced protection from redundancy, low cost housing and a 35 hour working week.

Over the years there have been other deals put in place – for example a recent union agreement outlines that every SNCF worker works an extra 1 minute and 52 seconds per day, and in exchange gets the Pentecost religious holiday as an extra day off.

READ ALSO Just how good do French railway workers really have it in France?


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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.