Macron reform drive is make-or-break for French unions

Workers at the state rail operator SNCF will start downing tools two days out of every five but the disruptions are likely to spill over into non-strike days as well.

Macron reform drive is make-or-break for French unions

World Bulletin / News Desk

Facing a push for deep reforms by President Emmanuel Macron targeting the public sector and businesses, French unions kick off a wave of strikes Tuesday that analysts say will test how much weight they still carry.

Unions are reacting to government plans to revamp the debt-laden and loss-making SNCF which they believe -- despite consistent denials from the government -- is a first step toward privatisation.

Under the reform plans, new employees would not benefit from a special status historically given to railway workers, which guarantees them a job for life and early retirement.

SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy warned Sunday that some train lines might be closed due to the walk-outs, which are projected to last until June and could lead to disruption increasing over time.

"Three days after normal services resume, another strike sequence will start. It'll completely disorganise our work," he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Pepy, who has warned that just "one train in five or one in eight" trains will be running, urged passengers to stay away from stations unless their train was confirmed, starting from Monday night.

Transport minister Elisabeth Borne, interviewed in the Sunday version of the Parisien newspaper, didn't mince her words, calling the industrial action "incomprehensible".

A new poll by the Ifop survey group published on Sunday showed that 46 percent of respondents found the strike "justified", an increase of four points from two weeks ago.

Only a slim majority, 51 percent, thought the government "should complete the reform as it has been announced".

Last Mod: 01 Nisan 2018, 15:47
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