France: transport strikes enter second week

The transport strikes that have crippled France enter their second week today with negotiations scheduled for tomorrow.

Submitted by jef costello on November 20, 2007

The number of strikers seems to have stabilised at a relatively low figure of around 20% for the RATP (Paris transport) and 25% for the SNCF (rail), however this number does not reflect the effect upon services. General assemblies of rail workers cotinue to vote to continue strike action by massive majorities even thogh the number of strikers is lower. This is partly explained by the high proportion of drivers on strike and is also likely to be due in part to coordination by workers.

Services on Monday ran at a lower level than expected and in Paris reports issued by the authorities did not seem to tally with what was happening in stations and at bus stops across the city. During the evening rush hour only the automated line 14 managed a service above 60% and 8 of the metro lines ran below 20% of services. At midday only three lines were above 50% and seven were below 20% (with two of those at 0%)

The suburban RER services were badly affected with the B line reduced to no service, management claimed a 5% service on the A line but this was not reflected on the ground. Buses were claimed to be at 50% although again there were few to be seen. The tramway services were reported to be running at 50% on lines one and three and 100% on line two.

Workers may also be stepping up militant action ahead of negotiations on Wednesday. They have already forced the government to hold talks and militant workers want to send a message, not only to the government, but to their own unions.

The government is under intense pressure, during previous crises Sarkozy has always had a superior to blame for problems whilst keeping credit for himself. According to polls Sarkozy's approval rating has dropped 5% in the last month with his prime minister, Fillon falling by 3%. Sarkozy has delegated media responsibilities to Fillon and there are suspicions that he is preparing a coup de theatre to end the deadlock. It is possible that Sarkozy will offer up Fillon as a scapegoat in the case of failure, but as Fillon has been echoing Sarkozy's own tough rhetoric and the plan is Sarkozy's his presidency would be massively weakened if he were to do so.