Three months of rolling rail strikes have started in France, in protest against reforms by French President Emmanuel Macron. Train services have been severely disrupted across the country.
The Tuesday strike is the first day of the planned action, which will see rail stoppages on two days out of every five, until June 28, unless Macron ends his plan for a major overhaul at state rail operator SNCF. Some 48 percent of train drivers are taking part in the strike, which has been dubbed 'Black Tuesday' by the French press.
|'Black Tuesday': French rail workers begin 1st day of rolling strikes to protest Macron's reforms
“I want to be very clear... the strike action will no doubt be widely adhered to and is going to make the lives of a lot of people very difficult,” SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy said in a radio interview, as quoted by Reuters.
Only one in eight TGV services – France's intercity high-speed rail service – are currently operating. Regional TER and Intercite train services have also been severely affected. Less than half of RER trains – which service Paris and its suburbs – are operating. The rail disruptions have led to extremely heavy traffic jams on roads around Paris.
International trains are also being affected. No trains are set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. Only one in every three trains to Germany is operating, while three out of four Eurostar trains – which connect London, Paris, and Brussels – are running.
The move is aimed at protesting against Macron's plan to transform the national SNCF – which is in massive debt – into a profit-maker ahead of the EU opening up state railways to competition from 2023.
The French president wants to phase out lucrative SNCF contracts, which give workers a job-for-life guarantee, automatic annual pay rises, a generous early retirement policy, and free rail tickets for relatives. Unions say Macron is paving the way for privatization.