Industrial action hits SNCF

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May 1998 saw industrial action on France's railways, as workers demanded job creation and pay increases, and called for more investment and changes to the running of the SNCF network.

On 13 May 1998, five of the eight trade unions represented on the SNCF railways system - CGT, CFDT, CGT-FO, CFTC and SUD- called railworkers out on a "nationwide day of action" over job creation and pay increases, which resulted in stoppages. The Independent General Federation of Drivers (FGAAC- Fédération générale autonome des agents de conduite) - representing 40% of drivers - did not take part in the action but plans a stoppage around the time of the World Cup if no negotiations on drivers' pay have been convened by then.

The unions are pressing SNCF management and the Government on the urgent need for investment, particularly in human resources and rolling stock. However, the list of demands is much longer: reduction in working time, guarantees on the railways' special social protection schemes; and also the abolition of the separation between the management of the rail infrastructure and that of operating activities (FR9702113N). Indeed, as far as the CGT and the CFDT are concerned, their demands include the repeal of the measures that created the French Rail Network (Réseau ferré de France, RFF), which is the public organisation - set up in February 1997 - responsible for rail infrastructure.

Even if the unions are far from speaking with one voice, the fact that overall between 30% and 35% of SNCF workers came out on strike made the day of action a success for the unions.

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