France braces nationwide rail strike

French state railway operator SNCF announces rolling strikes starting April 3, which will spread over 3 months
PARIS: France on Tuesday braced for a major travel disruption as part of rolling strikes called by state railway operator SNCF to protest reform plans announced by President Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Rubbish collectors, some staff in the electricity and energy sector, and employees of Air France, are also set to join what is described as the biggest wave of industrial unrest since Macron’s election last May.
Forty-eight percent of rail staff, including 77 percent of drivers, are set to join the strike on Tuesday and a second day on Wednesday, the SNCF said.
The rolling strikes starting Tuesday, dubbed by the press as “black Tuesday”, will see traffic disrupted two days a week until June 28, making a total 36 days of strike action over three months.
SNCF said travel would be “very disrupted” on Tuesday, with only one in eight high-speed TGV trains operating, around one in five regional trains, and major cancellations on suburban commuter trains.
Only one in three trains between France and Germany and 75 percent of Eurostar trains between Paris and London will be operating.
Four labour unions have called for the industrial action against government plans to revamp the debt-laden SNCF ahead of being opened to competition in 2019.
Reforms also include the cancellation of a special status historically given to railway workers, which guarantees them a job for life and early retirement, for new rail employees.
Flight crews and ground staff for Air France also announced a further two-day strike for April 10 and 11. A major union, the Communist Party-linked CGT is also pushing for mass industrial action on April 19.–AA

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