Strike makes for not-so-merry Christmas journey in France

A person rides an electrical scooter or “trotinette” in a road of Paris as a strike by all unions of the Paris transport community (RATP) and French SNCF staff entered its sixteenth consecutive day in Paris, France, December 20, 2019. Reuters/Charles Platiau

Paris:  Vacation travellers throughout France scrambled for options Sunday as an 18-day-old transport strike over pension reform noticed prepare providers slashed but once more.

President Emmanuel Macron issued an enchantment on Saturday for a truce over the vacations however talks between the federal government and unions this week have didn’t ease the standoff and labour leaders known as for additional mobilisation.

Staff on the SNCF and RATP public rail corporations have downed instruments to protest on the authorities’s plan to forge a single points-based pension scheme out of 42 present ones, which might see some public staff lose sure privileges.

In consequence, weeks of journey distress worsened on Sunday, when tens of hundreds deliberate to satisfy up with household and pals for the Christmas break.

Solely half of high-speed TGV and 1 / 4 of inter-city trains had been working, and the SNCF urged voyagers to cancel or delay deliberate journeys if potential.

In Paris, trains connecting the capital to its suburbs had been right down to a trickle, and solely two out of 16 metro strains supplied a service on the final procuring Sunday earlier than Christmas.

Public help dropping

Macron, on a go to to the Ivory Coast, urged placing staff to embrace a “spirit of accountability” and for “collective good sense to triumph”.

“I imagine there are moments within the lifetime of a nation when it is usually good to name a truce to respect households and the lives of households,” he stated in Abidjan.

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A ballot by the IFOP company printed on Sunday confirmed public backing for the motion dropping barely by three proportion factors, although 51 p.c nonetheless expressed help or sympathy for the strikers.

Jean Garrigues, a historian with the College of Orleans, advised AFP this was more likely to change over the vacations — cherished household time for the French.

“The transport blockage has principally affected the Parisian area, and we will see that within the coming interval, it should additionally have an effect on folks within the rural areas. It will alienate many individuals from the labour motion. There will definitely be a drop in help,” he stated.

On Saturday, pissed off traveller Jeffrey Nwutu Ebube was looking for a means dwelling to Toulouse within the south from the northern port city of Le Havre — some 850 kilometres (530 miles) away.

“I am upset, this strike is insufferable… The federal government should do one thing,” he advised AFP.

‘All the things is full’

Many stranded travellers have turned to automotive rental businesses or ride-sharing platforms for the reason that strike started on December 5, however the last-minute surge in demand meant automobiles had been arduous to come back by.

Amongst these marooned was Jerome Pelletier, who lamented “all the things is full, all the things is taken.”

The federal government insists a pension overhaul is important to crete a fairer, extra clear system.

It could put off schemes that provide early retirement and different benefits to primarily public-sector staff, not least prepare drivers who can retire as early as 52.

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Whereas some unions help a single system, virtually all reject a brand new proposed “pivot age” of 64 — past the authorized retirement age of 62 — for retiring with a full pension.

Heavy toll on enterprise

Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995 when the federal government backed down on pension reform after three weeks of metro and rail stoppages simply earlier than Christmas.

The protest is taking a heavy toll on companies, particularly retailers, accommodations and eating places throughout one of many busiest durations of the 12 months.

Business associations have reported turnover declines of 30 to 60 p.c from a 12 months earlier.

Stormy climate contributed to travellers’ woes Sunday, dropping timber on railway strains within the south of France, blocking a number of routes, as violent winds left 110,000 households within the southwest with out electrical energy.