Officials and railway workers marched in protest in several cities in France yesterday, against what they call "the breakdown of the public service", and to challenge the reform of the status of railway workers announced by the government.
The CGT union has called for two more days of ‘mobilisation’ on April 3 and April 19.
In yesterday’s Paris march, 47,800 demonstrators marched to the Place de la Bastille, including 13,100 railway workers, according to an independent count carried out by the Occurrence data group.
For SNCF trade union officials, this figure was some achievement. Érik Meyer, one of the general secretaries of SUD Rail, said it was proof that another strike on April 3 would be a success: "All the indications that we have, in all professional categories of the company, lead us to believe that we are heading towards a historic movement in the company," he said.
With 36 strike days planned over three months, rail disruption looks set until June for many passengers.
Le Parisien newspaper claims to have seen an email from CGT-Cheminots union bosses to staff saying that if their proposed two-days-on-five strikes do not sufficiently disrupt rail timetables, they can ‘look to harden the tone’, which was explained as meaning they could strictly enforce driver timetables even on non-strike days. “For example,” the email said, “if a driver's shift includes a terminus at such and such a station, there is no question of going further if management so requests".
When asked if members would be happy to follow this line, the secretary general of the CGT-Cheminots, Laurent Brun, said: "The debate that will take place in the assemblies is not the hardest or the easiest bit. Is this a sprint or a marathon?"
Yesterday Mr Brun had symbolically invited all former leaders of the CGT-Cheminots federation, including Bernard Thibault, leading figure of the long strikes of 1995 – a move seen as a possible indication of what lies in store.