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SNCF: kick-off of the debate in the Assembly, “progressive” resumption of traffic Tuesday

Ⓒ AFP – BORIS HORVAT – | Demonstration in Marseille against the SNCF reform on
April 9, 2018

The kick-off of the debate on the “new railway pact” wanted
by the government was given Monday in the National Assembly,
the fourth day of a strike always very followed by the railway
workers who demonstrated in several cities of France, before a
“progressive” recovery of SNCF traffic scheduled for
Tuesday.

The Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne, defended before
the deputies a reform “imperative” and pleaded for a debate
“relieved of the fantasies and the untruths which pollute it”.
This “urgent” reform is “for the sole purpose of better
meeting, finally, the expectations of our fellow citizens,
especially for their transport of the daily,” said the
minister, rejecting any willingness of the government to “go
into force”.

Shortly before the opening of the debates at first reading,
several hundred railway workers and sympathizers had gathered
on the esplanade des Invalides, not far from the Palais
Bourbon, to defend “the future of rail public service”.

“Railway workers angry we will not let it go!” or “it’s
going to fart!” chanted protesters, chasubles in the colors of
their unions (CGT, Unsa, South, CFDT, FO) on the back, which
multiplied the explosions of firecrackers and used sirens to be
heard by the deputies . About 300 of them then went on a wild
demonstration to the Eiffel Tower before dispersing on the
Place du Trocadero.

– “Progressive” recovery –

In Lyon too, several hundred people – 4 to 500 according to
the police, 800 according to the organizers – including a
hundred students, parade in the afternoon against the reform of
the SNCF.

Between 250 and 300 railway workers had gathered in the
morning in Lille where, early in the morning, protesters had
set up a barrier filtering the Ouibus and Flexibus buses
leaving for Paris and Brussels to delay them. A rally also took
place in Marseille.

After a second sequence of two days of strike, the SNCF
expected Tuesday for a “gradual recovery” of traffic. The TGV
traffic will be normal but the regional lines (Transilien and
TER) and Intercités will remain slightly disturbed.

A quarter of railway workers (24.9%) scheduled Monday were
on strike in mid-morning, against 29.7% on April 4 to the
second day of strike, according to figures from the SNCF. The
drivers (75% of strikers, against 74% last week) and the
controllers (71%, against 77%) remained very mobilized, the
controllers to a lesser extent (35%, against 46%).

On Monday, the traffic remained “very disturbed” with a TGV
on five, a Transilien and a TER on three and Intercités out of
six in circulation.

In the Assembly, Ms. Borne rejected the idea that the reform
organizes “the breakage of public rail service” or that it
prepares “creeping privatization” of the company, as fear
railroaders.

Ⓒ AFP – Simon MALFATTO – | Strike at the SNCF

The government has planned, through a new amendment, to
include in the law the principle of changing the status of SNCF
which, with its subsidiaries, will constitute a “unified public
group”, with capital “wholly owned by the ‘State”.

– Competition, “stimulating sting” –

The minister’s comments on the opening to competition, “a
stimulating spur” according to her, have sparked exclamations
of the MPs Insoumis, called to order.

Communists and Rogue have filed numerous amendments to
maintain status for new hires. In addition to the end of
recruitment status, strikers and left parties deplore the
government’s desire to transform the SNCF public limited
company and open the rail sector to competition.

Faced with the conflict, which has already cost “a hundred
million euros” to the SNCF according to his boss Guillaume
Pepy, the Prime Minister assured Sunday that the executive
would go “to the end” of his project. For Edouard Philippe, the
main lines of the reform are “not negotiable”, the discussion
being possible only on its “modalities”.

“Nobody wants a hard conflict that lasts but for the moment,
we are facing a wall” and the railway workers have “no” other
choice than the strike, replied the leader of the CGT, Philippe
Martinez. His counterpart of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, was
worried about a war of words where “everyone shows his
muscles”.

With the consultation, the Ministry of Transport “has
occupied the ground to play the clock and now we are before the
fait accompli” with the beginning of the parliamentary debate,
noted Roger Dillenseger (Unsa-railway). The government “is
limited to gaining time”, until the passage to the Assembly is
completed, abounds Erik Meyer (SUD-Rail).

Remained discrete so far, President
Emmanuel Macron will enter the arena Thursday, in the newspaper
of 13H TF1. A few hours before the next two-day strike.

bur-jta-chl-sp / cel / eb

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