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More transport chaos in France in standoff over labour reforms

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More transport chaos in France in standoff over labour reforms

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  • Unions target transport for more strikes
  • TGV and regional trains to be hit from Tuesday night
  • Air France pilots hold their own strike

Just as the spectre of dry petrol stations and blockaded oil refineries eases slightly, French travellers are having to brace themselves for more disruption on the nation’s transport system.

Objections remain over government labour reforms – particularly clause two which allows company specific deals to override the legal 35 hours working week.

Trade Unionist Sebastien Varagnol, delegate for Petroineos union warned there will be no backing down:

“The strikes will continue as long as the government refuses to listen to us, and until it withdraws the labour law project and until they present helpful projects for our French companies and for the workers.”

Transport misery

It means commuters and air travelers will be badly hit as from tonight (May 31st). French state-owned company SNCF says its high speed TGV trains will be reduced by half and only 40% of regional trains will run.

Air France pilots are planning to strike over what they call the company’s “obsessive reduction of costs”, and air traffic controllers are out from Friday to Sunday.

And all with the Euro 2016 football tournament looming when thousands of supporters are due to arrive.

Compromise?

President Francois Hollande, who is nicknamed ‘Flanby’ after a wobbly caramel dessert partly because of his reputation for caving in when challenged, is reportedly ready to offer the unions a compromise. If they drop their opposition to an employment bill to make hiring and firing easier, he will grant concessions in separate negotiations on working conditions and pay.

The more moderate CFDT union backs the labour reforms, which have already been watered down, to the disgust of many employers, but three out of four of the unions including the hardline CGT refuse to compromise.

Public support

A poll published on Sunday showed that about 46 per cent of French voters want the labour bill dropped, but most of those who support it believe it should be further modified. However, the poll also showed that the moustachioed CGT leader, Philippe Martinez, who champions 1970s-style class struggle, is widely distrusted and disliked by two-thirds of the French.

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