French rail workers begin months of rolling strikes

French rail workers kicked off three months of rolling strikes on April 3, part of a wave of industrial action that will test President Emmanuel Macron's resolve to reshape France with sweeping reforms.rench rail workers kicked off three months of rolling strikes on April 3, part of a wave of industrial action that will test President Emmanuel Macron's resolve to reshape France with sweeping reforms.

The main protests against the reforms begin on Tuesday, which the media has termed "black Tuesday" with only one out of eight high-speed TGV train and one out of five regional trains likely to run. At the capital's Gare De Lyon, a woman had to be helped off the tracks after falling due to overcrowding.

He managed to pass controversial labor reforms in October, but the length and severity of the rail strikes are already earning comparisons with late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's showdown with coal miners in 1984.

In an IFOP poll published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 53% of the almost 1,000 people surveyed said the strike was unjustified.

"This reform is necessary for travelers, necessary for the SNCF, necessary for the railway workers", she told CNN's affiliate BFM TV on Tuesday.

The trade unions met in the morning and made a decision to continue the strike tomorrow, complying with the announced schedule.

Global train services also face disruption: no trains were set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. More than half of French people view the strikes as unjustified, according to an Ifop poll published on Sunday.

SNCF workers fear they could lose job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and a generous early retirement policy.


A senior SNCF manager, Alain Krakovitch, told Le Parisien that only 12% of high-speed TGV trains would operate on Tuesday, and the low-priced Ouigo service would be at a standstill.

The disruption is set to continue on Wednesday as all trains from France to Switzerland and Italy have been cancelled.

The walkout - which started on Monday evening and is to last through Wednesday morning - is also reducing train traffic on the Eurostar to Britain and trains to Germany.

Macron wants to transform SNCF, which adds €3 billion to its 47 billion euro debt pile each year, into a profit-maker.

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.

Energy sector unions have also called strikes to demand, among other things, an end to the liberalisation of the energy markets and a review of deregulation.

Further walkouts are planned for April 7, 10 and 11.

  • Tracy Klein