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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale

French rail strike called off for New Year’s weekend

Passengers by a TGV high speed train at the Montparnasse station in Paris, 23 December 2022. Train travel is expected to be disrupted over the Christmas weekend due to a strike by controllers, who have agreed not to strike over New Year's. REUTERS - SARAH MEYSSONNIER

Train controllers have agreed not to strike over the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend after reaching a deal with management. Their strike this weekend has created chaotic conditions for hundreds of thousands of people who are travelling for the Christmas holiday.

The SNCF rail company said it signed a deal with the four rail workers’ trade unions, which agreed to lift strike notices, effectively making any strike action over next weekend illegal.

Unions and management negotiated past 10pm on Thursday night to come up with a deal that the SNCF said included strong measures for a real recognition of the job of controller.

Since November, a group of controllers, or ticket inspectors, has organised on social media, away from the trade unions, to demand higher pay and more recognition of the specificity of their work.

Controllers are necessary for the proper running of high-speed TGV trains, and they are often asked to work at night or during the weekend, and face an often frustrated public.

The negotiated deal includes hiring 200 extra controllers in 2023, a guarantee of career development and salary increases, as well as an increase in a specific bonus for controllers, from 600 to 720 euros a year.

The Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, said the deal means service would be fully guaranteed over the New Year’s weekend. However it will not change anything for the Christmas holiday weekend.

A thousand controllers have declared they are striking this weekend, forcing the SNCF to cancel one out of three trains on Friday and two out of five trains on Saturday and Sunday.

It will leave 200,000 passengers scrambling for alternate ways to voyage to holiday gatherings.

Customers had already started receiving messages Friday proposing compensation for their cancelled trains – up to twice the amount paid, on top of reimbursement of their ticket.

The online form to request compensation had technical errors on Friday, but the SNCF said customers should try again later, and have up to six months to file a claim.

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