France set for massive railway strike against President Macron's reforms

A Syrian man waves to Turkish soldiers securing the streets of the northwestern city of Afrin Syria during a Turkish government-organised media tour into northern Syria Saturday

A Syrian man waves to Turkish soldiers securing the streets of the northwestern city of Afrin Syria during a Turkish government-organised media tour into northern Syria Saturday

French railway services were thrown into chaos on Tuesday, the first day of rolling nationwide strikes that are set to run for months in the toughest test yet of President Emmanuel Macron's determination to modernise the French economy.

- Only one high-speed TGV train out of eight is scheduled to run and one regional train out of five, which will result in employees across the country struggling to get to work.

The main rail unions plan to strike two days out of every five for the next three months.

Platforms at Gare du Nord, Paris's busiest railway station, were so crowded with commuters that some tumbled onto the tracks and had to be helped back up, television footage showed.

He managed to pass controversial labor reforms in October, but the length and severity of the rail strikes are already earning comparisons with late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's showdown with coal miners in 1984.

As the industrial action began, almost one in two SNCF staff stayed off work.

"I hear that there may be fears on the part of the railway workers".

"The railway workers are not doing this for the fun of it", said Philippe Martinez, head of the hard line CGT union, the biggest among railway workers.

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Le Parisien and Le Figaro warned it was unclear how this "war of attrition" would pan out, particularly as other sectors, including at Air France, the national air carrier, as well as dustmen and energy workers. More than half of French people view the strikes as unjustified, according to an Ifop poll published on Sunday. Train services have been severely disrupted across the country.

Worldwide services, including the Eurostar from London to Paris and Brussels to Lille, as well as trains to Germany, were also affected by the strike action.

Train movements to other countries like the UK, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Italy will also be affected because of the strike - from partial to total.

Macron wants to transform SNCF, which adds €3 billion to its 47 billion euro debt pile each year, into a profit-maker.

French President Emmanuel Macron is facing his largest domestic challenge yet to the raft of reforms he's been working to implement since he took office in 2017.

Borne has sought to ease tensions with assurances that current SNCF employees that have to move to a competitor in the future would keep most of their advantages. Nearly 80 per cent of SCNF workers are on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A major strike by workers at the French state railway SNCF - including train drivers - is expected to paralyse rail travel across France.

Air France workers also walked out Tuesday in a separate and continuing dispute over pay, leading to the cancellation of around 25% of flights.

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