French rail unions at crossroads as rolling strikes end

In most recent two-day stoppage only 10% of SNCF workers downed tools, as participation waned after disputed reform’s passage in parliament.

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French railworker unions on Wednesday began the last of 18 scheduled two-day work stoppages as a united front, concluding unprecedented rolling strikes that began on April 3. But French commuters have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel, reports FRANCE 24.

As a heatwave took hold in France, travellers could expect to find four of five scheduled high-speed TGV trains running on Wednesday. Regionally, three of five Intercité and TER trains and two of three Transilien trains were due to operate, the national SNCF rail service had announced.

In the greater Paris area, the SNCF said only half of the RER C and D commuter trains were set to run with further disruptions to the RER B. Europe’s busiest commuter train line, the RER A, was expecting normal service.

During the most recent two-day stoppage on Friday and Saturday, only 10 percent of SNCF workers downed tools, a low-water mark, including fewer than 40 percent of train conductors, as participation waned in the wake of the disputed reform’s passage in parliament.

The bill that sparked three months of disruptive labour unrest -- opening the door progressively to passenger rail competition and putting an end to new hires under a coveted “cheminot” status that grants railworkers exceptional privileges -- overcame its final legislative hurdle on June 14, with French president Emmanuel Macron signing the bill into law on Wednesday.

For Wednesday’s 35th strike day, only 8.4 percent of overall railworkers were off the job, representing another dip from the 33.9 percent on strike when the movement began back in April.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

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