THE MAIN rail union, CGT-Cheminots, and CFDT/Fgaac, a train drivers’ union, have announced a strike on Tuesday October 20.
The rail workers are protesting about issues including working conditions, salaries and plans to reorganise the national rail operator’s freight business.
The strike will include all kinds of workers and will run from October 19 at 20.00 to October 20 at midnight. In theory, agreements on “minimum service” should ensure some trains still run at peak times.
CGT-Cheminots general secretary Didier Le Reste said the strike would take place unless SNCF management gave satisfactory responses to all their concerns before then. If not there will be a strike and “it will only be a first stage,” he said.
Unions fear that the SNCF wants to hive off freight to a new subsidiary, breaking up the company. However the SNCF said recently it will merely experiment with new “specialised entities” within the parent company.
The second largest rail union, Unsa, sees this as progress, so will not take part in the strike. The CGT says they have “let the bosses take advantage of them.”
The third biggest union, Sud Rail, disagrees with the October 20 date, preferring to join in a general inter-professional day of protests being planned for October 22.
The rail unions have also encouraged rail staff to take part in various protests taking place today as part of an international “day for decent work” being backed by the biggest French unions.
According to a joint statement, the unions said: “All over France we will come together to organise gatherings, meetings, protests, press conferences, industrial action, debates and meetings with politicians.”
The main target of today’s protests is the government’s handling of the economic crisis. The unions say ordinary workers have seen new taxes and higher charges, while income from capital and property has been untouched. A BVA-Avanquest survey shows 70% of people support today’s protests.