SNCF staff plan walkout in protest at reforms

Railway workers' protest coincides with nationwide civil service strike

Railway workers will stage a national strike in March 22, in protest against government plans to cut some of their benefits and privileges.

The rail walkout coincides with a national day of protest organised by civil service unions over planned reforms that will see up to 120,000 public service workers lose their jobs over the next five years.

Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union told France Inter radio: "Rail workers will organise a national protest day on March 22 and of course rail workers will defend public services, their jobs and their status."

The strike was called after a report recommending a major overhaul of SNCF was submitted to the government on Thursday, January 15.

The Spinetta report has called for opening up France's rail network to competition, shutting down smaller lines, a reduction in the number of rail workers including a freeze on hiring new staff. Some of the report's recommendations are in line with EU requirements to open up France's long-distance high-speed network to competition by December 2020.

"This is a report that comes as no surprise from an order from the government that wants to break the SNCF and ... all public services," Mr Martinez said.

"I challenge anyone to prove to me how the status of railway workers is the cause of the problems and incidents faced by many travellers."

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