French rail unions in showdown with Macron in rolling strike

Above French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit Reuters

Above French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit Reuters

Although the cancellation of global lines only affected 25 per cent globally, there were no journeys scheduled on Tuesday to Spain (Barcelona-Paris, Barcelona-Lyon, Barcelona-Toulouse and Madrid-Marseille). One in every three trains to Germany was to operate, while the Eurostar service connecting London, Paris and Brussels was down to three out of every four trains, the SNCF said.

The strike's impact immediately was visible on Tuesday.Passengers hitched rides on traffic-clogged roads and shared travel tips online.

In stations like the Gare du Nord and the Gare de Lyon there were persons who fell on the railways, fainted and other emergency situations caused by crowds. We haven't done anything.

"The railway workers are not doing this for the fun of it", he insisted. Do you know what time I had to get up? "Children. This isn't normal", Fleris said. Among train drivers the participation rate was put at 77 percent. The overall proportion of rail workers participating in the work stoppage including employees on trains and on the ground- was 33.9 percent, the company detailed in a statement.

Emmanuel Macron, who ran his successful presidential campaign on a "pro-business" platform, has seen his popularity rapidly decline in his first year in office as he has sought to introduce measures to weaken the strength of the country's unions and give employers the ability to more easily fire their employees.

A majority of French people view the strikes as unjustified, according to an Ifop poll published on Sunday.

"It doesn't make us happy to go on strike".

The police charged the crowd and ordered the demonstration dispersed.

It is expected to be the biggest wave of industrial unrest since Mr Macron's election last May.

Macron has made reforming France's economy a central plank of his presidency.

Clémentine Autain, representing France Unbowed, said at the same media event: "This is a trial of strength between the unions and the government".

Nationwide strikes in France against railway reforms have resulted in all rail connections to Switzerland being cancelled on Tuesday. Sanitation and sewage workers are going out on strike during the first week of April and are considering staying out until June.

"We're striking for several reasons, but at the top of the list is the government wanting to open up the service to competition", the spokesman for rail union Sud Rail, Eric Santinelli, told CNN.

At its core, Macron's reform would abolish the railway employees' quasi-status as civil servants, which includes job-for-life guarantees, retirement at an average age of 54 and automatic annual pay rises.

A coalition of 12 left-wing parties, ranging from the Greens to the Maoist Communist Party of French Workers (PCOF), has been formed to resist "the breakup of the SNCF", a precursor to the government's goal of breaking up the organized public service sector in France.

Union protests against Macron's earlier measures were timid and quickly faded.

The four main rail unions plan to strike for two days out of every five for the next three months - a total of 36 days of disruption - to fight a shake-up of the SNCF before its monopoly is ended in line with European Union rules.

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