June 15, 2018
1:0 for Macron against the SNCF unions?
The SNCF reform turned into law yesterday with a final vote. Four months of strike actions did nothing to prevent this. The French government prevailed in its main objectives, including the end of the special status for new employees, and preparing the company for competition. This does not end strike actions, though. The smaller the troops and the more lost the cause, the more radical the strikes are likely to be, predicts Olivier Auguste in l'Opinion. For the CGT, the strongest union in the SNCF and the most opposed of the four unions to the reform, it is a fight not only about the politics of the reform but also about their own identity.
What about the two more moderate trade unions, the CFGT and Unsa? After the reform was launched, the relationship with the government first took a turn for the worse, as the government seemed ill-prepared and unresponsive to the unions. This was the time when they agreed to strike actions two days out of five each week. The government then changed the strategy in May and started a dialogue. In the end the two moderate unions obtained some important concessions from the government: a guarantee that all employees would be taken over in case of privatisation, long term investments and the takeover of a large chunk of the SNCF debt. Will they now pull the plug and call for the end of the strikes, risking to break the line with the other two unions? Also, will the reforms help to turn the SNCF around? It is one thing to win a showdown with the executives of the trade union, and another to get the employees back on board, warns Les Échos.