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Railway staff plan weekend walkout

Talks to avert strike continue - but travellers heading to the Rhône-Alpes this weekend are warned to expect chaos

A PLANNED walkout by railway workers is set to cause chaos for many of the estimated 50,000 holidaymakers heading to and from the ski slopes of the Rhône-Alpes this weekend.

The two main railway unions in the region have called the strike in protest at working conditions and SNCF’s restructuring plans.

The walkout, which is set to begin at 5pm tomorrow and end at 8am on Friday, comes as an estimated 50,000 people are expected to be travelling in the region.

It coincides with the big winter school-holiday getaway, with ‘Zone A’ schools just breaking up and ‘Zone C’ heading back at the end of their winter break.

Secretary General of the CGT, Bernard Tournier, insisted the move was not taken lightly, saying: “We did not file a notice of strike on such a weekend without taking everything into account. It is not a bluff.

“The real responsibility of management is to listen to us.”

Notice of the unions’ intention to strike was filed on January 24, as the two main unions, CGT and Sud-Rail, were in talks with regional SNCF bosses about the restructuring process.

Talks are continuing, but the CGT warned of “significant inconvenience to travellers” if no progress is made by tomorrow afternoon.

Sud-Rail union spokesman Julian Troccaz said: “Management continues to cut jobs in railway stations and on trains. Our working conditions are deteriorating and do not allow us to provide a good quality and safe rail service.”

Unions claim that the proposed restructuring package, which is intended to stabilise the railway network’s debt, will entail job losses.

Mr Troccaz said: “In total, 1,300 jobs have been lost since 2007. You can call it a social plan.”

But SNCF denies the claims. A spokeswoman for the regional branch of SNCF said: “There are no planned redundancies.”

“All regional management teams have been mobilised to deal with the strike. The priority is to help travellers arrive at their destinations safely this weekend.”

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