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French rail workers begin months of strikes

April 04, 2018 00:00:00

Railways workers, memebrs of a CGT trade union, attending a protest rally in Bordeaux, southwestern France — AFP

PARIS, Apr 03 (AFP): French rail workers kicked off three months of rolling strikes Tuesday, part of a wave of industrial action that will test President Emmanuel Macron's resolve to reshape France with sweeping reforms.

The strike will cause chaos for France's 4.5 million train passengers, with stoppages planned two days out of five until June 28 unless Macron drops his bid to force a major overhaul at state rail operator SNCF.

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 crystallising," the regional Charente Libre newspaper warned on Monday.

The rail strike officially started on Monday evening but it begins in earnest on what the media have dubbed "black Tuesday".

Only one high-speed TGV train out of eight is scheduled to run and one regional train out of five, spelling problems for companies across the country as staff struggle to get to work. "I regularly travel between Lyon and Grenoble for work. The strike is going to raise huge problems for me," lawyer Perrine Fontana told the news agency at the main station in the southern city of Lyon on Monday.

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