Monday, 18 October 2021

French PM meets unions to try to end rail strike


PARIS: France’s prime minister told labor union leaders that he expected the debt-ridden SNCF rail company to reach financial breakeven by 2022 and, according to one union boss, promised to make announcements on the issue before the end of May.

SNCF’s 46 billion euros ($55 billion) of debt is one of the main flashpoints in a showdown prompted by an SNCF shake-up aimed at ending its domestic passenger rail monopoly and ending the hiring of rail staff on more protective contracts than other sectors.

Philippe, who seemingly stopped short of concrete proposals, promised announcements on debt management between now and the end of May, said Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT union.

The union leaders all said industrial action was set to continue, but Berger said his union was also open to negotiation if the government proved willing in the weeks ahead, before the law on the SNCF reform goes to the Senate on May 29.

The reform, the biggest since railway nationalization in the 1930s, has turned into a test of President Emmanuel Macron’s determination to pursue a raft of economic reforms as his first of five years in power comes to an end.

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