France train chaos as labour unrest spreads

2016-06-01 20:32
A man wearing a mask of French President Francois Hollande raises his fist as striking employees of the state-owned rail operator vent their anger. (Jeff Pachoud, AFP)

A man wearing a mask of French President Francois Hollande raises his fist as striking employees of the state-owned rail operator vent their anger. (Jeff Pachoud, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Transport chaos hit France on Wednesday, just nine days before the Euro 2016 football tournament, as railway workers went on strike in the latest salvo of a months-long battle between the government and unions.

Around half of France's trains were cancelled as workers from railway operator SNCF launched their eighth strike in three months...this time saying they will continue until demands for better pay and conditions are met.

Few trains

"It's a nightmare today (on Wednesday) even more than the other strike days," said Christine, a SNCF worker surveying the chaos at Ormesson station in the Paris suburbs, where commuters were struggling to squeeze on to one of the few trains that had shown up.

The strike has piled further pressure on the deeply unpopular Socialist government, which has been besieged by months of protests and work stoppages over a controversial labour reform bill.

Subway workers in the capital were planning to walk off the job from Thursday followed by Paris airport staff over the weekend.

Philippe Martinez, head of the powerful CGT union, said on Tuesday that this week would see "the strongest mobilisation in three months" of strikes.

Adding to the chaos, one Air France pilots' union threatened to hold a two- or four-day strike from the day after Euro 2016 kicks off on June 10.

Since March, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in demonstrations that have frequently turned violent, while about a fifth of France's petrol pumps ran dry last week as CGT activists blockaded refineries and depots.

Energy group Total faces losses of "tens of millions of dollars per week" from blockades at its five refineries, according to a report.

Although most have been cleared, workers at an oil terminal in the northern port of Le Havre, which supplies kerosene to Paris's two main airports, extended their blockade to Wednesday.

The protests have cast a shadow over preparations for the month-long Euro championship, which is expected to attract over a million foreign visitors and has already been dogged by security fears following last year's jihadist attacks in France.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls decried the "waste" caused by the strikes.

High unemployment

"This conflict is weighing on our economy at a time when the actions of the government are allowing a rebound, growth and a fall in unemployment," he told parliament.

The French government says its new labour law is aimed at reducing stubbornly high unemployment and making the struggling economy more business-friendly.

But unions are furious that the government rammed the reforms through the lower house of parliament without a vote and have called for another national day of strikes in two weeks when the bill goes before the Senate.


Read more on:    manuel valls  |  france  |  transport

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.