SNCF workers received at Elysée after 720km walk

The three walking workers were received at the Elysée in Paris after walking from the Ariège

Three striking SNCF workers have been received at the Elysée palace after walking 720km to get there, and sending a letter directly addressed to President Emmanuel Macron.

The three workers, all of whom are “cheminots” - the traditional kind of worker contract used by SNCF that is under threat from the proposed reforms -, began their journey to Paris on foot from Pamiers, in the Ariège.

Sébastien Phalippou, Régis Rousse and Patrick Viac made the 720km walk as part of their wider strike and protest against the proposed SNCF reforms.

They also sent a letter addressed to the President, calling their initiative “Walk or Strike”.

They have also amassed over 4,700 signatures for a petition in support of their movement.

Having arrived in Paris, they were joined by around 40 supporters who welcomed them to the city.

The trio was eventually received by “two counsellors of Emmanuel Macron” in “an annex” of the presidential palace.

They spoke about their grievances, including railway reforms, the closure of smaller lines, and the opening of SNCF to competition.

The counsellors also listened as the trio spoke about issues that they had heard from others along their walk, including retirement problems, hospital delays, public services, and what they called “abandoned rural areas”.

Mr Phalippou said: “[The counsellors] listened, took notes and said that they would convey our issues to the President.”

Marie-Pierre Rousse, the wife of walker Mr Rousse, said: “It is great that they were received [by the Elysee]. It is recognition for what they have achieved.”

Yet, while the three walkers were received at the Elysée, one striking worker said this was not enough, saying that the President was not actually present in Paris, and referring to Macron's recent state visits to the United States and Australia.

The worker said: “Macron prefers to have fun abroad than to listen to us.”

The SNCF strike is continuing - and has been since April - with disruption caused to most services at least two days a week, including on TGV and Thalys routes.

This is due to unionised workers’ grievances with the proposed reforms by the Prime Minister, including changes to worker contracts. Strikes are expected to continue until June.

Negotiations between the unions and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe are said to have begun this week, however, according to a statement from CGT-Cheminots union secretary general, Laurent Brun, this Monday (May 7).

In an interview, Mr Brun said: “The Prime Minister has confirmed that he has re-opened the file, which is very positive for us.”

Mr Brun said: “The question now is: will the government wait seven more strike periods to really get back to the heart of its project, or will it be faster?"

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