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SNCF strike threat for September 22

Rail services could be badly hit as unions protest against plans to scale back the SNCF's freight business

RAIL unions are planning a day of strike action across the SNCF network on September 22.

The four main rail workers' groups met on Wednesday to discuss industrial action in protest against proposed changes to the SNCF's freight operation.

The company is looking to scale back the loss-making division by as much as 60%. The business has suffered since the rail freight market was opened up to competition in 2006.

The CGT, Sud, Unsa and CFDT unions have described the proposals as "catastrophic".

In a letter to Prime Minister François Fillon, CGT general secretary Didier Le Reste said cutting jobs in freight would go against the government's commitment to reduce carbon emissions from heavy goods vehicles.

The union has asked for an urgent meeting with Fillon, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and SNCF management.

If the strike goes ahead, it will coincide with a day of industrial action by La Poste workers, who are walking out in protest against plans to change its legal status ahead of an EU-wide liberalisation of the postal market in 2011.

In the first half of 2009, the SNCF registered is first loss in six years, at €496m.

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