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Economy

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La CGT en appelle à Hollande pour sortir du conflit

by L’Humanité.fr with AFP

CGT Appeals to Hollande to Exit Conflict

Translated Sunday 15 June 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

On the fourth straight day of the strike by rail workers against the rail reform, CGT leader Thierry Lepaon appealed to François Hollande to find “an exit from the crisis this weekend,” before the beginning of the baccalauréat school-leaving exams. On the government side, language has become heated: “This strike must be stopped,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls, echoed by the leader of the CFDT trade union confederation, Laurent Berger, who stated that the strike “is not justified.”

On the fourth straight day of the strike by rail workers against the rail reform, CGT leader Thierry Lepaon appealed to François Hollande to find “an exit from the crisis this weekend,” before the beginning of the baccalauréat school-leaving exams. On the government side, language has become heated: “This strike must be stopped,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls, echoed by the leader of the CFDT trade union confederation, Laurent Berger, who stated that the strike “is not justified.”

The CGT-Cheminots and SUD-Rail rail workers unions are protesting against the rail reform that will be debated at the French National Assembly from June 17, saying that the reform is “harmful” to the rail workers. Language became heated on June 13. President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls demanded that the rail workers end the strike. The government ruled out any postponement of the parliamentary debate, which Pierre Laurent, the secretary of the French Communist Party, demanded.

The CGT responded with a letter addressed to the head of state in which it states that “the social aspects of this planned reform cannot correspond to rail workers’ expectations.” “It is not the commitments made by Frédéric Cuvillier (the junior minister for transport) on amendments that will be subject to later validation by members of the French Parliament that will allow an ending of this strike. This is why we are soliciting your intervention,” Thierry Lepaon and Gilbert Garrel, the general secretary of the CGT-Cheminots rail federation, wrote in their letter.

In an interview with the Parisien/Aujourd’hui on June 14, Thierry Lepaon, the leader of the CGT trade union confederation, said that it was possible “to find an exit from the crisis this weekend.” “For that to happen, it is necessary to open real negotiations with the CGT beginning today (June 14),” he insisted.

Valls does not want to end dialogue

The Prime Minister stated on June 14 that it was necessary for the “strike” at the SNCF “to end,” while emphasizing that “the government’s door is open” and that dialogue was going “to continue” “in the coming hours.” “I appeal to a sense of responsibility and to dialogue and to no longer penalizing the French, the train users, the workers and of course the students who will begin taking the baccalauréat exams on June 16,” the Prime Minister added in speaking to the press, as he left a meeting of the National Council of the Socialist Party.

“This strike must be stopped and, naturally, my door is open,” he said. “I’ve heard the CGT leaders appeal for dialogue, and of course we’re going to continue it. I do not doubt that for a moment. In the coming hours,” he stated, “we are working for that, to stop this strike, with a sense of responsibility,” Manuel Valls said. According to him, “this reform is indispensable for the SNCF, for the Réseau ferré de France, for the modernization of public service, this reform represents a trump card for the public service (…) it does not undermine the rail workers job status.”

“I can hear the anger, the expectations. This is true for the rail workers, and it is also true for the temporary show business workers. Hence a return to dialogue is necessary. This country needs reform, change, and cooling off. The government is quite determined to conduct reforms and simultaneously it wants to do it based on a capacity to convince. This is what we’re going to do,” Manuel Valls said.

“The CGT and SUD have been a pain in the ass to too many people”

“What shocks me is that there wasn’t any reason to go on strike, and even less to continue it” and “obviously, it’s got to be stopped,” Laurent Berger, the general secretary of the CFDT trade union confederation, said on Europe 1 radio.

“The CGT and SUD have been a pain in the ass to far too many people with this strike,” the leader of the CFDT said, adding that he was “concerned about the rail users, notably the young people who are going to take the baccalauréat exam on June 16.” According to Berger, this strike “is not justified” because there have been “discussions” with the rail unions on the planned rail reform that the CGT and SUD-Rail are contesting. In this reform, “the job status of rail workers is maintained and there are advances for other workers in the rail sector,” the CFDT leader said. For Laurent Berger, “there’s a radicalization race” between the CGT and SUD, which “is the manifestation of a form of trade unionism which is not helpful and which degrades the image of trade unionism.”

The strike has been renewed for June 15, the CGT-Cheminots union federation announced on June 14. For the fifth day of the strike called by the CGT and SUD-Rail, the SNCF company indicated that it foresees the same rail traffic conditions as on June 14.


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