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Rail Workers to “Invade” Paris on May 22 to Protest Rail Reform

Rail Workers’ National Day of Mobilization

Translated Friday 20 June 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

To guarantee the future of the SNCF public service and firmly condemn the rail reform, presently being prepared by the government, the CGT, UNSA and SUD-Rail federations of unions are calling on rail workers to “invade the streets of Paris” on May 22 at 2 p.m.

The CGT had announced a “labor struggle May,” such that a week after the big national mobilization of civil servants, it’s now the turn of France’s rail workers to make themselves heard in Paris. On May 22, the Rail and freight workers will demand “a different future for the SNCF in the social and economic domains.”

In this they will be opposing the bill which the government is presently preparing for the biggest public company in France, the SNCF, following the failure to solve the problem of Rail’s colossal debt, after having separated Rail from the Réseaux ferrés de France.

Today, the CGT rail federation is condemning this reform, which is “directly linked to the fourth European rail package and to the complete deregulation of passenger transport scheduled for 2019.” The reform will split the SNCF into three public companies (EPICs (1)): the “mother company”; the “infrapôle and the existing RFF (Réseaux ferrés de France.

The reform would radically reorganize the governance of the raul system, but according to the rail unions, it does not satisfy the requirements for quality public rail service or the high-level social conditions that the rail workers need. For the CGT, this splitting up of the SNCF prepares the opening of rail transport to competition and corresponds to a European policy of economic deregulation.

While a new reform is essential to “fix the mistakes of the past, including that of having separated wheels from rails, with the creation of the RFF,” the CGT wants the reform to be oriented towards social progress, contributing to the real development of passenger and freight traffic and beginning by reuniting the SNCF and the RFF.

“The government has to take on board its responsibility in land-use planning by taking on the debt of the rail system that is attributable to it and by guaranteeing the necessary financing of the regeneration and the development of the rail network,” according to the CGT-Cheminots union, which condemns the shedding of 2500 jobs across the board provided for in the government’s 2014 budget.

On May 22, the CGT, UNSA and SUD-Rail will demand a reform “that improves the transport conditions of travelers, that develops freight traffic and that maintains the rights of all the workers.” These are key demands to “improve the public rail service instead of abandoning it to the financial markets.”

The rail workers demonstration will be at the place de la Bastille in Paris on May 22 at 2 p.m.

(1) An établissement public à caractère industriel et commercial or EPIC is a category of public undertaking in France. It includes state-controlled entities of an industrial or commercial nature, including some research institutes and infrastructure operators.

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