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French rail workers threaten more strikes over Christmas holidays

The month of December could be impacted by more strike action on French rail services, as unions threaten to walk out over the Christmas and New Year weekends.

French rail workers threaten more strikes over Christmas holidays
A ticket collector walks the aisles of an SNCF train in 2011 (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

After a three-day strike between December 2nd and 4th that saw around 60 percent of services cancelled on the first day, conductors and ticket collectors have filed notice threatening to strike December 23rd to 26th and December 30th to January 2nd.

There are also separate calls for strike action on Wednesday, December 7th.

December 7th

Three unions (CGT, Sud-Rail and the CFDT) representing train drivers have called for a strike on Wednesday, in a joint memo. They are calling for a “united strike” ahead of a key meeting on Thursday between unions and bosses involved in a pay negotiation.

The statement published by the three unions says that the strike period will run from December 6th at 8pm to December 8th at 8am. According to Actu France, this movement could also affect Transilien lines in the Paris region.

Detailed information regarding the strike timetables, including which trains would be affected, should be available at least 24 hours in advance.

Christmas and New Year’s strikes

Unions have also filed strike notice for the Christmas (December 23rd to 26th) and New Year (December 30th to January 2nd), with the hopes of putting additional pressure on management. However, this is not yet confirmed, as it will depend on the results of the meetings, which will run from December 8th to the 22nd.

READ MORE: Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about Christmas travel to France

“We will have fifteen days to reopen a dialogue and reach an agreement,” Nicolas Limon, a spokesperson for the inter-union National Collective ASCT, told AFP. “We will do our utmost to ensure that there is no strike at Christmas time.”

Why are rail workers striking?

According to Limon, the issue is that train conductors and ticket collectors are “not considered in the same way train drivers are, even though we work three weekends a month and sleep away from home ten nights a month.” 

Conductors and ticket collectors are also seeking salary increases and for bonuses to be included in the basic salary structure so that they can be taken into account in the calculation of retirement payments.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport. 

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