By Etienne Lannuzel
SNCF staff went on strike Thursday. It could continue until the end of December. Parisians are concerned at not being with their family for Christmas Eve dinner.
On the platform at Saint-Lazare train station, Hervé* examines the information board. He’s supposed to leave Paris at 11.05 am. “Here it is, I’m gonna be late again…” His departure is fifteen minutes delayed. A strike action has indeed started this day.
Hopefully for those who are already on holiday, only 20 of 700 trains have been cancelled. Significantly less than two weeks ago, when 60% of traffic was affected. But what will the situation be like for Christmas?
« A story which is not ours »
For the moment, the strike is supposed to end by Tuesday 20th. SUD-Rail union is asking for a pay rise and better working conditions for switchmen, in charge of itineraries and traffic control. Indeed, the war in Ukraine and the inflation have affected their purchasing power. The direction, SNCF Réseau, has proposed a 60€ extra per month as from June 2023. Not enough for employees.
What will negotiations result in? Meanwhile, travelers are already worried: “It’s unacceptable to hold hostage people who are not lucky enough to live near their family, said François, who plans to celebrate Christmas with his parents and sister, in Brittany – a region located on the west coast. We get caught up in a story which is not ours. It should be settled without impacting the whole population.”
Adrien, 29 years old, also considers a potential strike as “a kind of extortion”. Manon, a graphic design student, is annoyed: “I hate Christmas, but I hate the SNCF even more! And how is it possible to increase prices whereas its services deteriorate?” Because more than this occasional strike, Manon, as well as François and Hervé*, question the price-quality ratio of railway in France.
A risk of strike on air transport
In case of a train cancellations next week-end, what are the other options? Airplane is one, as it is sometimes cheaper than train in France. But a strike notice is also confirmed from December 22nd to New Year’s Eve at Air France. Stewards and air hostesses also claim wage increase. UNSA PNC (a union representing cabin crew members) condemn an “opportunistic action”, as unions elections take place at the same time.
For the moment, it is difficult to know if flights will be cancelled. As a last resort, Manon plans to “do everything in his power to find a carpool” in order to reach Grenoble (at the foot of the Alps) for Christmas. Véronique, an engineer met in Saint-Lazare, has already left Paris with his car. She will work remotely in Bordeaux (a south-western city) to be on spot before December 24th. In the past 50 years, only the 1986 Christmas and New Year had been seriously affected by massive strikes in transport.
*Name has been changed