French railway workers are back on the streets to protest against Macron’s risky reforms

4 Jun 2019

Four French trade unions organising railway workers have called for a national demonstration in Paris today, as the Macron government pushes ahead with reforms that are bad for passengers and staff.

CFDT Cheminots, CGT Cheminots, UNSA Ferroviare are all ETF affiliates, and they will be joined by Sud Rail. Workers and union activists are gathering at Place d’Italie and marching together towards the Gare Montparnasse. The joint demonstration may lead to disruptions in rail services today in France.

Railway workers are taking action because they are worried about the future of their jobs, deteriorating working conditions and worsening public services. The French government passed a law known as the “New Railway Pact” (Nouveau pacte ferroviaire) approximately one year ago. Since then, unions have protested against it repeatedly because of its disastrous consequences for the quality of public services and the working conditions of railway staff. In essence, these reforms are nothing more than another step towards competition and part of the ongoing privatisation of France’s world-beating public railways.

In the meantime, railway workers feel that the quality of their employment has fallen and they are worried about their career prospects. Personnel are being removed from trains as well as from railway stations, while many ticket offices are about to close down – especially in smaller towns. Unions warn against an increased workload, worsening work-life balance and higher psychosocial risk for the employees who remain.

Likewise, passengers could also suffer as a reduction in personnel may lead to lower quality of services for occasional travellers and daily commuters. That is why unions condemn move by the railway sector to implement practices like restructuring, outsourcing, or the use of temporary workers with unstable, precarious contracts.

Alongside their struggle against unneeded and unfair liberal reforms in the railways, French workers protest against social decline. Salaries must reflect the rising costs of living so that workers maintain their purchasing power, so indexation should be reinstated. Pensions must also allow a decent living for retired workers and their families.

ETF sees well-functioning railways as a backbone in European economy. Rail can and should also create quality jobs for working people across Europe. That is why ETF supports French workers in their fight for quality public services and quality employment – two key demands of our manifesto for Fair Transport in Europe. Solidarité à nos collègues!