Staff at Air France, garbage collectors and some energy workers are also staging separate walkouts Tuesday in a growing atmosphere of social strife 11 months after Macron came to power. Pensioners, students and public sector workers have already taken to the streets in recent weeks protesting against the 40-year-old centrist’s widespread reform plans.
“In the most tense social climate since the start of the Macron presidency, there is a real risk of the discontent crystallizing,” the regional Charente Libre newspaper warned on Monday.
This is first chapter of the strike, Tuesday is the first day of the planned action, which will see rail stoppages on two days out of every five, until June 28, unless Macron ends his plan for a major overhaul at state rail operator SNCF. Nearly fifty percent of train drivers are taking part in the strike, which has been dubbed ‘Black Tuesday’ by the French press.
Only one in eight TGV services – France’s intercity high-speed rail service – are currently operating. Regional TER and Intercite train services have also been severely affected. Less than half of RER trains – which service Paris and its suburbs – are operating. The rail disruptions have led to extremely heavy traffic jams on roads around Paris.
“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 difficult,” SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy said in a radio interview.
Internationale trains are also being affected. No trains are 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.
The move is aimed at protesting against Macron’s plan to transform the national SNCF – which is in massive debt – into a profit-maker ahead of the EU opening up state railways to competition from 2023.
A major railway strike in France has brought high-speed trains to a halt, leaving passengers stranded. The strike also poses the biggest test so far for President Emmanuel Macron’s economic strategy, AP said. The SNCF national rail authority said about 12 percent of trains were running on Tuesday, in the first of a series of strikes set to last three months. Traffic was also disrupted in the morning on Eurostar lines to Britain and trains to Germany, though most trains are running as normal. Rail workers are protesting against government plans to eliminate worker protections – part of Macron’s broader program to make France “more globally competitive.”