FRENCH rail workers began another two-day rolling strike on Friday which hit services across the country. But President Emmanuel Macron has vowed he will not back down. Friday saw a sixth day of strikes, with the national rail operator SNCF urging people to postpone travel plans and to stay away from train stations if possible.
The SCNF warned that only one in five high-speed TGV trains would run, as well as one in five trains on main lines, with two out of three regional trains operating, including in the Paris region. Train traffic was also disrupted on Saturday but returned to normal on Sunday until the next planned strike day on April 18.
In Paris, the Metro and buses were working as normal, but the RER services linking the capital to its suburbs was disrupted from Thursday evening. These disruptions are the latest of three months of rolling strikes planned by rail workers that began on April 3 over plans to privatise the heavily indebted train operator SNCF, the biggest test yet to President Macron’s wide-ranging drive to reform the country’s economy.
The strikes have caused major travel headaches for the 4.5 million daily rail users in France.
In a television interview last Thursday, the French president who had hardly spoken about the conflict publicly, vowed to stand firm. He said: ‘I will go to the end of these reforms.’
By Friday he was giving his support to US President Trump’s decision to bomb Syria and French missiles were launched against the Arab country, a former colony of France. Earlier last Friday, the Eiffel Tower was closed to visitors after a strike by security staff.
The strike by security staff meant the company that runs the Eiffel Tower said the necessary safety conditions could not be met, forcing the closure of the monument. The restaurants 58TE and Jules Verne were also closed as access was not possible. The strike is believed to have come about after three members of the security staff were fired recently.
Staff have complained that their hours and pay have deteriorated since the job of providing security for the monument was taken over by a new company recently. It was not clear when the tower would reopen. The CGT union federation had expressed concerns about Macron’s drive to war on Syria.
It said in a statement last Thursday: ‘The CGT wishes to express its concern about the situation created by the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. ‘The CGT calls for the opening of an investigation led by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). As a reminder, this international institution aims to ensure the implementation of the International Convention on Chemical Weapons of the United Nations, by the Member States that have signed it.
‘We are therefore opposed to the establishment of a so-called “independent” commission under the control of the US or NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). NATO is an illegal political-military organisation under international law. ‘As much as we believe that the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons in accordance with international conventions must be strictly respected, we are against a military bidding that could lead to the use of other sophisticated weapons of mass destruction. ‘The consequences of this outbidding would be unpredictable but in any case dramatic.
‘The fight for peace is part of the CGT’s priorities ‘No military intervention, no violent action, can allow the restoration of a just and lasting peace for the benefit of the people of this region a thousand times bruised.
‘These wars are closely linked, involving global and regional military powers in search of areas of influence, military bases, markets, land, air, sea, and gas and oil delivery routes. and access to the sea. ‘The people suffer. ‘It is especially the arms dealers who benefit from it.
‘The most skilful political leaders and demagogues take advantage of it in order to perpetuate their autocratic power, repressing rights and freedoms.
‘It is urgent to find a political solution to avoid a conflict with incalculable consequences.
‘More than 350,000 deaths in seven years, it is urgent to find a political solution, under the aegis of the UN, for the Syrian people. War is always a failure. It leads to chaos and gives birth to monstrosities against the peoples and civilian populations thrown into the path of exile. ‘We reaffirm the urgency of initiatives to work: ‘• a total halt to the bombing and a durable ceasefire; ‘• respect for humanitarian law by all stakeholders; • to a political solution through a process of negotiations involving all relevant actors (apart from Daesh and its affiliates), under the auspices of the United Nations and based on documents that have been unanimously security Council.’
Last week, the CGT condemned police attacks on students. It said in a statement: ‘Monday, April 9, the President of the University of Nanterre decided the administrative closure and cancelled all courses then he asked the intervention of the police without any respect for the university franchises.
‘The decision of university presidencies to bring police forces to their campus, with the sole purpose of preventing the social protest of students and staff, is contrary to academic ethics, the culture of debate and to critical analysis.
‘At 3pm, the students and the staff gathered in general assembly thus saw CRS burst into an amphitheatre of their university to end their debate. seven students were arrested and placed in police custody. ‘The entire university community and that of Nanterre in particular is shocked by the violence of this intervention. The presence of CRS, in a university amphitheatre to stop a Genral Assembly, is a serious fact and can not be forgiven to a university president.
‘Over the months, police interventions have happened on university campuses (Nantes, Bordeaux, Paris, Lille, Caen, Dijon, Grenoble, Strasbourg) to silence the internal protest which tends dangerously to generalise. ‘For several months, university staff and students have expressed their opposition to the Vidal law “Orientation and Student Success”.
They refuse to participate in the selection of bachelor’s degree and ask for the means to make open universities work and allow the success of the greatest number in good conditions of study and work on all the territory. ‘They are not listened to. Neither selection nor “excellence” is the solution for a better education system.’