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UPDATE - France faces lengthy nationwide rail strike

UPDATE - France faces lengthy nationwide rail strike
Disruptions in country's transport services are expected as start of Euro 2016 football tournament approaches

UPDATES WITH COMMENTS FROM GOVERNMENT MAJORITY OFFICIALS

PARIS (AA) - Transport services across France will see significant disruptions as several unions begin nationwide strikes on Tuesday evening, over a set of controversial labor reforms.

The strikes, which will concern all kinds of rail services, occur as France is about to host the Euro 2016 next week. Train, subway and bus lines will either be canceled or disrupted across France as of Tuesday, 8 p.m. local time (1800GMT).

One of the country’s most important unions, the CGT, announced the strike on Monday and warned that industrial action will continue until the Socialist government scraps the contested labor bill.

According to the French Ministry of Transport, around 60 percent of France’s high-speed TGV trains will be running while 50 percent of commuter trains will be operating in the Paris region.

Other lines will only see 10 percent of trains running. International trains to Switzerland, Thalys services to Belgium and the Netherlands and Elipsos services to Spain will all be affected.

Subways in Paris are expected to be disrupted on Thursday.

Air France pilots also voted on Monday in favor of the idea of a “lengthy strike” in June although no date has been set.

The transport strikes follow others, mainly orchestrated by one of France’s most important workers union, the CGT, in the energy sector. The strikes, and the blocking of several oil refineries, have led to shortages in gas stations.

Opponents of the El Khomri draft law – named after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri - argue that it will pave the way for fundamental changes in French labor law, at the expense of salaried workers.

The labor reform bill is expected to be debated publicly by the French senate starting June 13. The unions have already filed a notice for a national general strike set for June 14.

The Euro 2016 football tournament begins on June 10.

The rapporteur of the bill, Christophe Sirugue (PS), dismissed on Tuesday the idea of withdrawing Article 2 of the reform bill, which has been the focus of protesters’ anger.

Article 2 favors the use of negotiations to establish collective bargaining agreements within individual companies, instead of within branches or professions.

He did add that it could be changed to meet the demands of the unions.

"Today, there are points on which there is no question of compromising, no withdrawal of the text," Sirugue said on French broadcaster LCI channel.

"I think we should continue to work to amend article 2, to address this issue,” he added.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls seemed less open to amending the bill.

Speaking at the weekly meeting of Socialist deputies in the National Assembly Tuesday, Valls said retreating the law would be a "political error" that would be beneficial to the right.

He emphasized that he wanted to keep the bill as is and in particular Article 2.

source: News Feed
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