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France: 'Open-ended' rail strike targets labor bill

France: 'Open-ended' rail strike targets labor bill
France faces transport chaos as railway workers start lengthy strike just 9 days before Euro 2016 football tournament

PARIS (AA)- Passengers across France were forced to change plans Wednesday as the country’s state railway started an open-ended nationwide strike over the socialist government’s controversial proposed labor reforms.

The strike, which started on Tuesday, 8 p.m. local time (1800GMT), was called for by one of the country’s most important unions, the CGT.

Unions warned that industrial action will continue until the government scraps the contested labor bill.

The SNCF state railway said on its official Twitter account that 17 percent of its staff took part on the strike on Wednesday, up slightly from a previous strike last week, and forecast similar levels of traffic for Thursday.

The strike, which concerns all kinds of rail services, occurs as France is about to host the Euro 2016 football tournament next week. SNCF said six out of 10 high-speed TGV trains were running, along with one-third of other inter-city services and half of regional trains.

Eurostar train services to Britain were not affected, while 75 percent of trains to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland were running, and about 40 percent to Spain and Germany.

The Parisian public transport operator the Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports, or RATP, said its Metro services in the French capital will run at "normal” levels Thursday but other train lines serving airports will be affected.

Bus and tram service will also be normal, or close to normal.

According to French radio France Info, the second-biggest pilot union at Air France, the Spaf, has filed an official strike notice with the country's national carrier for June 11.

The strike notice warns of a walkout of two to four days, and is motivated by looming pay cuts, Christophe Campestre, Spaf’s vice president, told the radio.

Campestre made the announcement after a meeting between union heads with Air France CEO Frederic Gagey on Wednesday.

The "meeting of last chance … was a failure," Campestre told France Info.

France's civil aviation staff, which includes air traffic controllers, are also threatening to stage a national strike on June 3-5.

- No backing off from law

The transport strikes follow others, mainly orchestrated by the CGT union in the energy sector. The strikes, and the blocking of several oil refineries, have led to shortages at gas stations.

The head of CGT, Philippe Martinez, said Tuesday: "This week will see the strongest mobilization in three months" of strikes.

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.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the rapporteur of the bill, Christophe Sirugue (PS), on Tuesday dismissed the idea of withdrawing Article 2 of the reform bill, which has been the focus of protesters’ anger.

Asked Wednesday by Anadolu Agency reporter if she could withdraw the law or make any changes, Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri responded: “I am completely aligned with the prime minister’s stand. I worked on this law for three months… there will be no changes, no backing off from the law."

source: News Feed
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