French minister says rail strikes irresponsible

2018-03-22 08:52:01
Summary:French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne on Friday described as irresponsible trade unions call for month-long strikes over the government s plan to reform the rail sector
PARIS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne on Friday described as irresponsible trade unions' call for month-long strikes over the government's plan to reform the rail sector.

Trade unions called rail workers to stage strike in two out of every five days over a three-month period, from April 3 in protest of reform of the state-run rail operator SNCF.

In an interview with CNEWS channel, Borne said the unions' "posture is not responsible".

"The government does not seek a showdown. Unions say two days of strike every five days; I say negotiation seven days a week. There are many topics to negotiate," she added.

The minister invited unions to negotiate range of issues, such as the start date for allowing private operators to compete with SNCF.

Meanwhile, she warned that the planned strikes would have negative impact on the rail operator, travelers and rail workers, whose strike days would not be paid.

Noting "an alarming situation" in the rail sector, the government pledged "a new strategic corporate project" to improve SNCF performance after it had been struggling with debts of 46.6 billion euros (57.21 billion U.S. dollars), mainly due to a generous pension system.

It also targets opening up domestic rail passenger services to create dynamism in the sector, and changing recruitment rules to create "a more efficient and unified" firm.

The government proposed scraping the special rail worker status, which allows workers to retire with a full pension at age 52, a decade before other French employees.

A recent Harris Interactive study showed 43 percent of the French supported protests against rail reform, with a large majority wanting to end the special rail worker status.

Many previous governments failed in reforming the public rail system.

In 1995, a right-wing government led by Alain Juppe planned to end preferential working terms of rail workers, a move that triggered a three-week rail strike and forcing Juppe to step down.

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