Signal workers’ strike cripples rail services in south west France

A walkout by railway signal workers in south west France has badly hit train services in the region.

Trains at Matabiau railway station in Toulouse
(Photo: Eric Cabanis / AFP)

An estimated 80 percent of signal operators in the Occitanie region went on strike at 6pm on Sunday in a row over staffing and working conditions. 

As a result, very few local or regional rail services are operating, and national TGV services have also been badly affected.

“The circulation of trains in our region is deteriorating due to a lack of signal staff. This leads to closed stations, postponements of crossings, and therefore delays and, more seriously, train cancellations. Sometimes, we are no longer able to provide public service,” David Anton, CGT union representative, told local radio stations.

“For example, we have had, on several occasions, trains that have stopped at L’Isle-Jourdain when they were supposed to go to Auch because of a lack of staff to put in the stations in Auch or Gimont,” he continues. “We are always reorganising to cope with less staff … railway workers are fed up.”

The CGT said at least 17 positions were vacant in the region, and has demanded that management create 38 positions in order to compensate for absences caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The strike will continue until 8.30am on Tuesday, with talks between unions and SNCF Midi-Pyrénées set to resume later the same day.

For up-to-date information on rail travel in Occitanie click here.

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BREAKING: French rail unions call national train strike

French rail unions have called for a national day of strike action to demand wage increases.

BREAKING: French rail unions call national train strike

The national rail strike is planned for Wednesday, July 6th, the day before French schools break up for the summer.

Three of the biggest rail unions – CFDT, Sud-Rail and CGT – have joined the strike call while a fourth, Unsa, is set to announce whether it will join next week.

They are demanding wage increases to help their members cope with the cost of living crisis, saying: “Railway workers are being hit hard, and are suffering a clear and sharp decline in their purchasing power.

They are asking for “measures to catch up with inflation in wages”, but also “a general increase in wages and the revaluation of all allowances, bonuses and indemnities”.

The strike notice issued is for a one-day action.

French workers in essential industries including rail are required to give bosses 48 hours notice of whether they intend to strike – this will allow rail operator SNCF to draw up strike timetables with limited services running. These will be published on Tuesday evening before the strike on Wednesday.

French schools break up for the summer on Thursday, July 7th and the following weekend is usually one of the busiest weekends on the railways as families depart for summer holidays. 

The strike covers employees on SNCF, and will not affect city public transport services such as the Paris Metro, although some of Paris’ regional RER and Transilien services are run by SNCF. 

Air travel in France has already been hit by strike action as airport employees and flight attendants have filed strike notices as they too demand wage increases to cope with the increased cost of living.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect France this summer