Job losses, worksened working conditions and fear of privatisation led to strikes across France on Wednesday.
The strike, from 8pm Tuesday 7th to 8am on Thursday 9th, was called by six of the eight railworkers' unions.
The observance of the strike was 26.8% according to the SNCF and 28.2% according to the unions. This was higher than the last strike, on 22nd November 2005, but less than previous strikes. Readers should bear in mind, however, that in France only around 10% of workers are union members.
As can be seen from the following statistics the service was heavily affected:
TGV1 - 2/3 trains running to or from Paris, but only 1/3 outside, No trains running in or out of Lille
CORAIL - 1/3 trains running with no night service on national routes.
TER - only 1/2 trains running.
Transilien - 1/2 trains
RER - B less than 40% of trains running.
There have been 7,000 job losses over the last 3 years and the management is currently planning another restructuring of the service.
The unions have also criticised the closure of stations, tracks and cancelling of routes.
French Railways were recently opened to competition and due to its better working conditions SNCF is losing ground to its competitors, although SNCF workers are more productive than their privatised counterparts.
The workers fear SNCF FRET is being wound down or prepared for privatisation, the attempts of management to end collective bargaining is seen as a first attempt to break up the network as well as a simple attack on workers' conditions.
The unions have issued a list of demands:
An end to irreversible decisions reducing the capacity of SNCF FRET
A commitment that SNCF FRET will not be privatised.
A commitment to de develop SNCF FRET and the provision of sufficient means to do so.
An end to job losses.
Planned hiring for 2006 should take place immediately.
A programme of recruitment should be set in place for the years to come.
The entire network should be respected, including the maintenance of non-profitable routes.
Immediate hiring of 1500 workers to handle the increase in rail travel (passenger) and the needs of the SNCF FRET service.
An increase in salary and pension provisions of 1.8%
- 1CORAIL - national and international routes; TER, regional rail network; Transilien, regional network in the north of France; RER the five (A to E) suburban rail lines in the Paris area