a new notice filed by the switchers

At the SNCF, the strike action by crew chiefs ends Monday morning, but another notice has just been filed for next weekend and some are pleading for a reinforced minimum service in transport.


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Travelers at Lyon station, February 16, during the controllers' strike.  (DELPHINE GOLDSZTEJN / MAXPPP)

A new strike is announced at the SNCF from Friday February 23 at 11 a.m. to Saturday February 24 at 11 p.m., still during the school holidays. But, this time, it is the train switchers, an essential position for directing the trains, who are threatening to stop work. Their demands are the same as the captains, it’s a triptych: better pay, better working conditions and recruitment.

For the moment, it is too early to know whether the movement will be followed. SNCF management hopes that this will not be the case, banking on the fact that only the Sud Rail union, the second largest organization among switchers, is calling for a strike. The previous weekend, for the controllers’ strike, the CGT was also at the origin of the notice. We will know more in the middle of the week, when the strikers will have to declare themselves.

Faced with these disturbances, some want more supervision of the strike, like the centrist senator Hervé Marseille, who tabled a bill. Its objective is to toughen the 2007 law on minimum service in transport. It is inspired by “Italian model” and proposes that certain periods of the year, such as the Christmas holidays, or the great summer cross-hunts, be “sanctuarized” and it is impossible to strike.

A tense social climate as the Olympics approach

Hervé Marseille hopes that his text will be adopted by the Senate, mainly on the right, and that the National Assembly will follow. For him, it is not a question of calling into question the fundamental right to strike, but of a way of rebalancing with the equally fundamental right to move or do business.

But if its text is adopted by parliamentarians, it is not certain that the Constitutional Council will validate it, which is also why the government remains so cautious. Certainly, on Sunday, Marc Fesneau, the Minister of Agriculture, pleaded for a greater minimum service, to avoid inconvenience to travelers, but it is not very supported.

The government prefers to let the SNCF manage the disruptions and does not plan to legislate, especially not a few months before the Olympic Games, as this would risk further straining the social climate. In transport, the unions intend to put pressure on until the Olympics with slow strikes.

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