French rail operator SNCF begins cancelling trains ahead of major strike

French rail operator SNCF has already begun cancelling trains in anticipation of major strike action in December.

French rail operator SNCF begins cancelling trains ahead of major strike
In an unusual move, SNCF has already began cancelling trains. Photo: AFP
The rail operator has already blocked anyone from booking tickets for December 5th to December 9th on some lines, and today some passengers who have pre-booked tickets reported getting emails and text messages telling them their train is cancelled.
The early cancellations represent an unusual move from SNCF, which has said it will not be publishing its full strike timetable until December 3rd.
Generally when there is a strike transport companies are told a few days in advance exactly how many employees will be walking out, and they then publish revised timetables based on their available staffing levels.
But in a sign of how disruptive the December action is expected to be, SNCF and Eurostar are cancelling services and suspending bookings a week in advance.
Around 150,000 customers of SNCF received a message saying their train was déjà supprimé (already cancelled) and inviting them to either exchange the ticket for a different time or receive a full refund.
The Eurostar service has already announced the cancellation of 25 trains over December 5th and 6th.
SNCF, Eurostar, Lyria and Thalys (who run the international train routes) are all offering customers free exchanges or refunds if they decide not to travel during the strike period.
The unions that cover the rail industry have declared an 'unlimited' strike, starting on December 5th.
How long the action is likely to last for his difficult to say, but one political analyst that The Local spoke to said it could last until the New Year.
As well as rail staff, unions representing Metro and bus drivers, airline ground crew and air traffic controllers, hauliers, lawyers, teachers, civil servants and postal workers have all said they will strike as unions prepare for a major confrontation with Emmanuel Macron's government over plans to reform France's pension system. 

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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.