The first day of the latest rail workers strike in France ended as it began for millions of passengers – a long, cold wait for the few trains running. There was a glimmer of hope of progress in negotiations with the government. But that was of little comfort to travellers.
“I’ve been waiting 45 minutes. I’m so cold I’m in tears,” said one.
The strike, which provoked traffic chaos and mass demonstrations, continues today. Unions have said it could last a week. Last night Labour minister Xavier Bertrand agreed to round table talks, including government representatives, the train companies and unions.
That should please Bernard Thibaut, leader of the CGT union. At one of the rallies he had complained there had been no real negotiations to date.
“That’s to say, with all the players round the same table and with the representatives of the State,” he explained.
The main reason for the strike is a government move to raise the number of years rail staff have to work before retiring from 37.5 to 40, in line with the private sector. The removal of so-called special regimes was a major part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign platform.