French rail workers begin months of strike in test for Macron

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Commuters across France faced severe disruptions on Tuesday as rail workers launched three months of rolling strikes, a major test of President Emmanuel Macron's resolve to reshape the country through sweeping reforms.

TheLocal.fr reports that rail workers will stage stoppages on two days out of five until June 28th unless reform plans are dropped. At Gare du Nord, Paris's busiest station, platforms were so crowded that some commuters tumbled onto tracks; other stations were plunged into darkness, the lights and ticket machines switched off. The calendar of railway strikes is coordinated to align with negotiations and parliamentary debate about the reforms.

Other sectors could join the strike as it continues in protest at broader changes to labor laws proposed by Macron.

"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 hard", SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy said in a radio interview, as quoted by Reuters.

"This little melody being sung of "privileged railway workers" is intolerable", Martinez said.

Global train services also face disruption: no trains were set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

According to the BBC, SNCF senior manager Alain Krakovitch told Le Parisien newspaper that only about 12 per cent of high-speed TGV trains would run today.

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No trains were 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.

Macron wants to transform SNCF, which adds $3.69 billion (3 billion euros) of debt a year to a pile now running at $57.80 billion (47 billion euros), into a profit-maker.

In a bid to boost efficiency, the government wants to end rail workers' jobs-for-life, automatic annual pay rises and early retirement rights - benefits that date back to the nationalisation of the SNCF in the 1930s.

A meeting with train union representatives was scheduled for Thursday. This time around, however, all main trade unions in France have backed the railway strike.

It comes amid separate action by staff at Air France, rubbish collectors and some energy workers. The rail disruptions have led to extremely heavy traffic jams on roads around Paris.

SCNF said the strike would affect 85 per cent of France's high-speed trains and 75 per cent of regional trains.

The CGT has called for public and private sector workers nationwide to strike on April 19, but in a sign of union division, private sector unions have so far declined.

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