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Rail Workers Demand Rail Reunification Around SNCF

Strike Warning Against Rail Reform

Translated Sunday 15 June 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

French rail workers have issued a strike notice, renewable every 24 hours, beginning at 7 p.m. on June 10. Firmly condemning the rail reform which provides for dividing the SNCF into three parts, the rail unions (CGT, SUD-Rail and UNSA) are demanding “a different reform, a reform leading to reunification of the rail system around the mother company, the SNCF.”

“The rail workers will not let themselves be put upon,” the rail unions (CGT-Cheminots, SUD-Rail and UNSA) warned on May 22 during the big demonstration against the government’s rail reform, which brought out over 22,000 rail workers in Paris. Now, one week before the debate in the French National Assembly on the planned rail reform proposed by the junior minister for transport, Frédéric Cuvillier, the rail workers unions have gone back on the offensive, announcing “an enormous strike by rail workers,” renewable every 24 hours, beginning at 7 p.m. on the evening of June 10.

The objective? To make the government hear that a different rail reform is possible, one which guarantees the future of a real public service in rail transport “with a collective agreement aligned on the SNCF rules, aligned upwards,” Nathalie Bonnet of SUD-Rail said.

Conscious that a rail reform is necessary to guarantee the future of France’s biggest national company, which today is drowning in debt, the rail workers are criticizing “a law that has been freshly cut to do business around the world, but certainly not to organize the public rail service for passengers and freight traffic across France,” the CGT-Cheminots rail union said.

In fact, they are accusing the government of wanting to divide the SNCF into three public companies (EPICs): the “mother company”; SNCF Réseau (formerly named Réseau ferré de France – RFF); and SNCF Mobilité. A splitting up that is “directly linked to the fourth European rail package and to the complete deregulation of passenger transport, scheduled for 2019” which, according to the rail unions, is intended to deeply re-organize the governance of rail traffic and will not respond to the prerequisites for quality public rail service or to the high-level social conditions that rail workers need.

It is a vision of the SNCF that has little in common with that desired by male and female rail workers, who are demanding “a real reunification of the public rail system around an integrated company: the SNCF, accompanied by joining the means of production among the different services, breaking with the present compartmentalization of activities. Turning the train stations and the trains back into spaces for human beings must also be a priority.”

Beginning at 7 p.m., rail traffic will slow down and there will be big disruptions of train service. Train users must prepare themselves for this, because the SNCF workers are going to “vehemently express their disagreement,” according to SUD-Rail.

“A general feeling of being fed up,” expressed on May 22, and which is reappearing this evening to condemn, on the one hand, the orientation of “saving money on the back of the rail workers,” and on the other hand, that of shedding 2500 jobs in 2014. This is an austerity plan that is completely “absurd and does not answer the problem of indebtedness,” according to the rail unions, which will not fail to raise this question in their meeting with Frédéric Cuvillier on June 12. IF the meeting takes place, because the junior minister for transport should already have met them on June 4. “By putting off the appointment, he’s trying to gain time by stifling the mobilization of the rail workers!” CGT-Cheminot said indignantly.

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