France: transport strikes to continue

The strike action that has paralysed France's public transport system since Tuesday is set to continue for at least another day.

Submitted by jef costello on November 14, 2007

The TGV ran 90 out of 700 trains. The other national service, Corail, ran only 12 trains out of a normal service of 300. With the local TER services few trains ran, although a scab service of 2000 buses was in operation. Transport authorities are promising to improve the situation tomorrow, claiming one in three TER services will run, 50 Corail and 150 TGVs. The Parisian transport authorities have made similar promises. Traffic jams peaked during the morning, covering 350km of roads.

In Paris most of the transport system was shut down. Three of the five suburban lines ran no service, the other two ran only two trains per hour. The bus service was at 15%. On the metro, according to the RATP, line 1 ran two out of five trains; the automated line 14 ran a normal service; lines 2 and 3b ran one in three trains; line 4 ran a fifth of its normal servic; lines 3 and 9 ran just a tenth; lines 5 and 10 ran almost no service and lines 6, 7, 7b, 8, 11, 12 and 13 ran no service. At Republique metro station, a major hub for five metro lines only three trains were listed as coming in the next hour. On the platform the time of the next train slowly updated from 71 to 70 minutes. On another a train was listed as arriving in six minutes because the display only had two digits.

The demonstrations in Paris seem to have been smaller than during the previous one-day strike, with numbers reported at between 24000 and 53000 as opposed to 150000 to 300000 for October 18th.
The numbers of workers striking appears to be lower than for the previous strike as well, with the SNCF claiming 61.5% observance compared to 73.5%, the RATP 44% down from 58% and GDF and EDF reporting 37% down from 53%. The effect on services could suggest that management are manipulating figures or hopefully that workers are coordinating strike action to minimise loss of pay and maximise disruption, allowing them to prolong the strike.

The CGT union has stated a willingness to enter into tri-partite negotiations with the government but it is clear that workers are willing to reject deals made by the unions. In Marseille, for example, rail workers held AG and decided to continue the strike tomorrow before the unions announced the decision to continue. Messages from government have been mixed, with Sarkozy hinting that a deal may be possible and the Prime Minister stating that the government will not retreat on pensions.