France to be hit by rail and air strikes

Casey Dawson
April 4, 2018

Air France unions have called for a strike over pay on Tuesday, although the company said it expected 75 percent of flights to operate as usual.

Only a fifth of regional trains were running - and as commuters took to the roads instead, the streets of Paris were snarled with 370 kilometres (230 miles) of jams in the morning, "exceptional for the time of day", according to traffic website Sytadin.

It is often pointed out that railway strikes affect commuting and a strike longer than two weeks could unsettle the government. She touches based in Paris and its suburbs.

The 64-year-old wife of President Emmanuel Macron, 40, was said to be "hugely upset" by the scandal, which was aimed at "severely damaging her reputation".

"I do understand why they're striking", said Marie Charles, a Paris commuter.

Three out of 4 Eurostar trains to London and Belgium are expected to run, as are most Thalys trains to Belgium and the Netherlands, but almost all trains to Spain, Italy and Switzerland are expected to come to a halt.

Kurdish officials said afterwards that France was planning to send new troops to Manbij - a northern Syrian town held by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia - which Paris denied.

They are protesting a government plan to prepare SNCF before the service is opened to competition and to end some worker benefits.

Macron's government says the SNCF needs deep reforms as European Union countries prepare to open passenger rail to competition by 2020, arguing it is 30 percent more expensive to run a train in France than elsewhere. "We have to retrain our people", he said.

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Unions say the centrist ex-investment banker intends to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism".

Unions fear the changes are a move toward privatising the SNCF and object to plans that would include stripping new hires of a special status guaranteeing them jobs for life and early retirement.

That means France's high speed services will be nearly at a standstill.

"We are for a national rail company".

"The government will stand firm", Borne said.

French president Emmanuel Macron has warned that Google and Facebook are becoming too big to be governed and could face being dismantled.

The unions appear weaker now, however, and are divided over their responses to Macron's many social and economic reforms.

It is also a test for unions, which have struggled so far to mount a united front to seriously challenge Macron's push to reform the economy and the labour market.

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