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Author Topic: Hier Ouigo Ó Guesnes  (Read 1333 times)
stuving
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« on: December 01, 2019, 03:29:08 pm »

Hier Ouigo Ó Guesnes*! But not this month.

Yes there's another big rail strike in France, but a bit different from last time. The issues are both seen as existential by the unions, linked to their state-sector employee status. Last time the government won on the principle that new employees would not get the security for life of state employees, and compromised away most of the rest of their proposal. This time it's the cheminots' "special" pension scheme that they want to end.

This time there isn't a complicated schedule of strike days announced well in advance, but instead the period initially notified (5-8 December) is short but declared as "reconductible" - meaning, I think, indefinite. The idea is to notify a new strike to follow on, as late as possible (they are talking about each single day). On RATP an unlimited strike has already been declared - I suspect other cities will be hit too, though the main media don't show much interest in outside Paris.

The other main difference is that all the main unions, including CFDT (most staff not on trains), are taking part at this level - in the past they have accepted the need for some pensions reform. And one news item I saw said that the very small group of non-union drivers was smaller now - down from well over 200 to under 150. (These are generally driver-managers or -trainers.) Not that even the larger number is much use over the whole network, of course.

Info is very limited so far (SNCF but no page in English, Eurostar) - but basically it says if you are thinking of going to or through France by train - don't.

*Not really, of course, Guesnes is a tiny village - but it does have a station 3 km away. Not on a chemin de fer, these days it's a chemin de terre (literally).
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stuving
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« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2019, 07:46:53 pm »

Day 1 - and surreal pictures on TV of empty trains (how unlike SWR...). A case of camera crews outnumbering real passengers.

Of course for one or two days it's possible to stay at home, and given most public services (and a lot of schools in particular) are affected many will prefer to. Plus for less routine travel, e.g. to meetings, some will have been shifted earlier. In fact, at 56% of all staff and 86% of drivers on strike, the published figures for SNCF are a bit lower than a lot of the predictions (also 73% of guards and 57% of signallers). Will people will be trying to travel in larger numbers next week? I guess that (and a lot else) depends on how long the strike lasts.
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stuving
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2019, 11:54:47 pm »

A quick update - there doesn't seem to have been a lot of coverage of this after the first couple of days; I wonder why...

The second day (Friday 6th) still saw very few takers for the few suburban trains running into Paris, but a rise in traffic jams. But from Monday 9th that changed, and the few trains and Metros running were mobbed. The only Metro lines running nearly normally were the two automatic ones; a few of the rest ran some trains in the peaks. The traffic jams also grew to pretty much their record levels. Clearly a lot of people and their employers could manage a couple of days absence, but no more.

Outside Paris the situation has been patchy, and not reported on national news - this is based on a quick sampling. Buses, which are often run by private companies even if part of a city's network, have been very variable. Rennes Metro is automatic, and has been OK. Nantes trams have also been largely unaffected, except when there is a big street demonstration and the trams don't run through the centre.

Nice has been badly hit on days with big demos (like tomorrow), with no trams or very few buses. But they're like that there - I only found out about a similar one-day strike while I was there in September from a poster on a tram stop. It was my last day, which should have meant a simple tram-ride to the airport. Instead it was a one-hour walk along the front in the sun ... could have been worse, obviously, from the other side of town. (And isn't "day of social action" wonderfully inapt for such a day of antisocial inaction?)

The SNCF staff numbers on strike have been slowly falling, to 11.2% overall (61% of drivers, 17% of signallers). The number of trains running has been edging up too. But not as much even as the driver turnout - 1/3 TGVs, 1/4 Paris suburban, 1/6 IntercitÚs, 4/10 TER. The big unknown is Christmas, and so far the main unions have said they won't call a truce unluss they win (i.e. withdrawal of the pensions reform).
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stuving
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2020, 08:07:42 pm »

After thae first few days of "phony strike", from Monday of the next week (9th Dec) getting to work became really difficult with service levels below 50% in most of the SNCF network. There were few metros or buses in Paris, and some other towns were just as bad. But from the first week, the level of service has been slowly but steadily edging up in most areas. This is mainly due to strikers giving up for financial reasons, though operations management has also got better at coping and perhaps some promoted staff have been found who can go back into the front line.

The exception to that has been the "days of action" - the last on 9th Jan, and the next on Friday 24th - when a lot more staff have taken a single day off. But even there the impact has lessened each time. The unions (and that's mainly the CGT) are now switching from this unlimited strike in just one industry to fixed-term ones in a range of areas. Last week they closed several commercial ports (but not the main ferry terminals, for once), and they plan to repeat this and to target new industries in turn.

Now, from tomorrow (Monday 20th), SNCF are promising normal services (or quasi normal, whatever that is) on TGV and international routes, and on TER, with 80% on intercitÚs and Paris suburban. They have been advertising cheap rates on TGV tickets since the new year, as lack of trust in the service has left passenger numbers lagging behind their building of service levels. And the cost is staggering - over 1 Bn euros for SNCF alone so far.

Where the effect is still being felt very badly is by rail freight customers. With a critical shortage of signallers, and priority given to running the passenger network during its working hours, a lot of lines have been closed at night. I'm not sure if that adds to a driver shortage specific to the freight side. Of course closing ports will have a similar effect. (And so will Donald Trump, come to that.)

So far, there is no sign of either side actually giving in. The government seems determined to just stick in there and wait for the will to drain out the strikers. They will probably make a couple of concessions that sound bigger than they are, and hope for a repeat of the previous two rounds (on the employment law and the new status for SNCF). However, in those two the reform was watered down but the symbolic elements retained - I'm not sure that can be done for a new pension system.

Opinion polls continue to show a majority of the French are in favour of (1) the strikers and (2) pensions reform similar to that proposed.
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