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French rail workers strike causes severe disruptions

© Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP | A third strike by rail workers in two months is set to cause severe travel disruption on Tuesday April 26, 2016

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-04-26

Train passengers in France face severe disruption to their journeys on Tuesday as rail workers carry out an all-day strike over pay and working conditions.

The latest walkout by employees of French state-owned rail company SNCF – the third in two months – began at 7pm Monday evening and will run until 8am Wednesday morning, though travellers expect to see the biggest delays Tuesday morning.

Only half of high-speed TGV services will be running, SNCF said in a statement, along with just 40 percent of all regional TER trains.

Just one in three of SNCF's Intercités trains will run, while half of all trains on the Paris region's Transilien network will be cancelled.

RER rail services in the capital are also set to be significantly disrupted, with one train in two running on the RER line B, one in three on line C and D and two in three on line E. RER line A is set to run as normal.

International services are set to be largely unaffected though night trains will not be running, SNCF told the AFP news. It advised passengers to avoid travel or seek alternatives for their journeys wherever possible.

Why are France's rail workers striking?

1. Currently, workers are guaranteed 52 weekends off per year, but the proposal would reduce this to 30.
2. Workers are guaranteed 14 hours off between shifts, but the new proposals would cut this to 13 hours.
3. The current contract ensures employees do not spend more than one night away from home (ie, sleeper train staff). The reforms want to change this to two to three days away from home.
4. Workers must currently be notified of their work schedule several days in advance, but the reforms would remove this right.
5. Staff who commute over three kilometres are reimbursed by the SNCF. With the proposed changes, only commutes of over 50 kilometres would be paid for.

French Twitter users Tuesday morning weighed in on the strike, with a few voicing solidarity with the SNCF workers but most expressing frustration.

“Once you know the reasons for the SNCF strike, I don’t see how you could not support it,” tweeted @Gentilchanoir, who works as a RER conductor, according to his Twitter profile.

“The hardest thing with the SNCF isn’t knowing when they’ll strike next, but when they’ll work next,” wrote @hashtag52.

More strikes likely

The strike is expected to have a particularly severe impact because it is being backed by all four unions: the UNSA, CGT, SUD and CFDT.

The last time that happened, during a walkout on March 9, only around a third of train services ran.

The strike is the result of a long-running dispute between SNCF and the unions over workers' pay and working conditions.

There could be more travel misery for French rail passengers to come, with unions warning that further industrial action is likely as they seek to up pressure on SNCF bosses during the ongoing negotiations.

"Stronger action could be considered" in the absence of "real negotiations that take into account the proposals put forward by the unions", Thierry Nier, spokesperson for the CGT union told AFP.

Click here for information from SNCF about what services are affected, including information about specific trains (in English).

Date created : 2016-04-25


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