French rail workers issue Christmas strike threat

Travellers, in facemasks, head towards a train at Paris's Gare de Lyon
Travellers, in face masks, head towards a train at Paris's Gare de Lyon. Rail strikes are planned over the festive period. Photo: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP
It wouldn’t be holiday time in France without a strike threat - and this Christmas is no different. Rail unions are planning co-ordinated walkouts in key regions in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

Major French railways workers unions have called for a three-day strike of TGV Sud-Est and TGV Sud-Ouest services starting on Friday. 

The action planned by CGT-Cheminots, Sud-Rail, Unsa and FO-Cheminots unions coincides with schools breaking up for Christmas holidays and the weekend when many leave cities to visit family in the countryside. 

TGV Sud-Est services could be hit by two more three-day strikes planned for every weekend over the festive holiday period. Meanwhile, employees of TGV Atlantique are set to walkout ‘from Friday’, following a strike call from Sud Rail union there. 

A deal must be reached before Thursday if the walkouts are to be avoided, unions have warned, while the government has pledged to, “bring everyone around the table … [to] minimise the impact of this strike.”

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Trains heading to southern France from Paris’s Gare de Lyon – including services that stop at Dijon, Besançon, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Marseille, Perpignan and Nice – will be among those affected if the strike goes ahead as scheduled.

Unions are calling for improved working conditions, additional hiring to make up for insufficient staffing levels, wage increases to end an eight-year pay freeze and ‘a Covid bonus’.

“For two years we have been working in the midst of the Covid era and we have not had a Covid bonus,” said Sud-Rail union delegate Fabien Villedieu to RTL. “This dispute has transformed into anger. The pay issue does not only concern the rail network.

“The management still has a few days to negotiate and make proposals and if they fail to take action, we will strike.”

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