Archive

Posts Tagged ‘SNCF’

French ongoing strikes Oct. 12, and perhaps more after

October 11th, 2010 1 comment

If you’re lounging in the sun at Jardin Luxembourg, know that heated debate is going on in the Sénat building next to you.

Following strikes and demonstrations Sep. 7, Sep. 23 and Oct. 2 against government proposals to reform the pension and retirement system in France (including raising the general age from 60 to 62), the main unions (CFDT, CFTC, CGT, FO, SUD, UNSA-GATC…) have called for yet another day of “action” on the streets.

Laurence Parisot, President of MEDEF (the National Council of French Employers, basically a CEO club), said these strikes would continue to undermine the reputation of France abroad as a reliable place to do business. Prime Minister François Fillon meanwhile said it could well take a “decade” before France balances its budget. As The Economist wrote, President Sarkozy is trying to pass this crucial reform in the midst of a reputation comeback effort at home and abroad.

Conservative daily Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here. It also stated that this is a “decisive week” for the strike movement, but only 31% of French support a strike that could be extended during this week or longer but 71% support the reasons behind the social movement, nuances that match historical support for resistance to government reform that is badly needed to get the government budget in order. Many strikers want to see taxes raised on the wealthy, such as an elimination of the current ceiling of 50% tax rate on the wealthiest.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. Metro lines 1, 11, 14 should have no problems. Line 6 will have 75% traffic; lines 3, 4 , 8, 13 will have 66% traffic; and line 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 will have 50% traffic. For RER suburban rail lines, RER A will have 50% traffic, RER B will have 20% traffic (so for CDG airport, I’d advise you to take alternate transport: Roissybus to/from metro Opéra, a taxi or Air France shuttles). Orly transport options are listed too.

SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here on the possibly ‘ongoing’ strikes (so, which could be repeated over several days). You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. You can see the status of departures and arrivals in the main train stations at Gares en Mouvement website, one of the few things I like at SNCF (though overall I wish the U.S. had an impressive HSR system)

Aéroports de Paris (which runs Orly, Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports) said to expect possible delays, cancellations and other inconveniences on Oct. 12, notably because of Air France workers on strike. Air France posts information here on the strikes.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

Bon courage to everyone. Just take a deep breath, buy a baguette, drink some vin rouge, and complain against strikers. You’re becoming French by the moment. There are many wonderful things in this country, try to enjoy your time here!

September 23 France strikes: Your city-by-city survival guide

September 23rd, 2010 3 comments

Well, after the Sep 7 strikes, the unions have called for another day of protests in order to get the government to cede some more territory in the reform on pensions and retirement. But Sarkozy has vowed to not budge on the key issue – raising the age from 60 to 62 for retirement and from 65 to 67 for full pension access. As Labor Minister Eric Woerth was quoted by Reuters:

“We haven’t changed. We are very firm on the core of the reform, which is (the retirement) age.”
The government says the legislation is essential to erase a growing deficit in the pay-as-you-go pension system, curb rising public debt and preserve France’s coveted AAA credit ratings, which enables it to borrow at the lowest market rates…”If you don’t reform it, it simply won’t be viable and we won’t be able to pay French people’s pensions,” Woerth said.

This is turning out to be quite a fierce battle, and even though Sarkozy has been speaking around the country showing some concessionary measures (for arduous jobs like firemen and policemen, and taking into account the situations of working mothers), the core of the reform is on the table. It has been adopted by the National Assembly and is awaiting approval in the Senate.

So the unions are once again preparing for a day of “action” and even speaking about strikes in early October possibly touching weekend traffic. That’s just great. This is like protesting against the force of gravity and economic common sense. The unions are like little whining children. Let the adults do the work. Tomorrow’s strike will affect schools, the post office, some banks but especially public transport systems around the country.

RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Le Figaro presents a great special report on the retirement reform here.

Other major cities and their transport systems below with relevant updates:
Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre, Montpellier

With all of these disruptions, what you are planning on doing? Luckily in Paris, there will be 75% traffic on buses, so I’ll be OK. But for those opting for the Velib bike rental system in Paris, here is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Velib has been preparing for a day where they see a significant increase in bike usage (20-30% more on Sep. 7 than normal days, over 130,000 rentals per day).

UPDATE FROM BBC:

The walkouts are expected to hit transport the hardest. Only one in two trains will be running nationally and disruptions to services had already begun on Wednesday night….About half of flights at Paris Orly are to be cancelled, as well as 40% at the capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and 40% at other airports throughout the country, said the DGAC civil aviation authority…

….The pension reform bill has already been passed by France’s lower house of parliament. It will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.

France’s retirement age is lower than many countries in Europe. Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, providing they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years – although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.

The government says it will save 70bn euros (£58bn) by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.

Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed who might struggle to hit the 41.5 year requirement….

September 7th day of strikes: What you should know city by city

September 6th, 2010 2 comments

Oh là là. Pas encore. Especially for striking against raising the retirement age, a necessary evil if the French government is to not go broke and be able to finance its public debt. They’ve announced raising it from the current 60 years old to 62 over the course of 8 years. If you’re in France on Tuesday September 7th, look out for heavy disruptions in public transport, among other services (post office, schools…). RATP, the Parisian region transport authority, has posted updates for tomorrow’s traffic here. SNCF, the national railway operator, has posted information as well here. You can find information for other metro areas transport below, mostly in French. Figaro gives a good breakdown too, en français.

Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux,Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Dijon, Brest, Caen, La Rochelle, Le Havre.

Former Socialist Party Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has stated that “if the French come out in numbers to demonstrate in the street, the government will have to take that into account.” More on this tomorrow…I know I have an important meeting on the other side of Paris tomorrow morning for work, might risk the RATP system, Vélib it or taxi…we’ll see. Bon courage à tous!

French pension reform sparks controversy

In the wake of the French government’s decision to increase the overall retirement age to 62 (from the current 60) over the course of the next 8 years, unions and leftists have come out yelling “unfair”. But they fail to realize just how important reform is for France’s future, if it is to ever balance its budget and have enough money to go around for the baby-boomer generation and future generations. Plus, France’s retirement age is among the lowest in Europe and the OECD countries, and the life expectancy has gone up so people are able to work longer.

One of the main debate points is whether or not retirement should be determined by number of years worked or a fixed age, no matter how long you have worked.

Those with “special regimes” such as many civil servants (“fonctionnaires”) weigh on the country’s collective financial resources, undermining the stability of my generation. To drive their point home, SNCF and others will be doing what they know best, going on strike, this Thursday June 24.

A couple of articles in French go into depth about the issue, such as La Croix, and Les Echos.

Apparently by one account, 54% of French are opposed to the current reform proposals, with 45% being in favor of it.

The Economist published a couple articles talking about French reform and how though a good start, it is not going far enough. I agree and would be interested in hearing your feedback.

The first one, “State of Denial” and the second article, “How buoyant is France?”. Excerpts from the first one:

THE French government’s long-awaited pension reform, which was announced on June 16th, turns out to be at once symbolically bold and yet ultimately disappointing. Under a plan unveiled by Eric Woerth, the labour minister, France intends to raise the legal retirement age progressively from 60 to 62 by 2018. Since this alone will not meet the state pension-fund shortfall, the government will increase the top rate of income tax from 40% to 41% from next year, and tax capital gains, stock options and other financial income more heavily. It will also align civil servants’ pension contributions with those in the private sector by 2020. In all, the government thinks it can balance the pension fund, which currently has a €32 billion deficit, by 2018.

The symbolism of this change is clear. It was President François Mitterrand in the early 1980s who introduced retirement at 60 as a mark of progress, and it remains a totem for the left and the right. Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, instantly called the government’s plan “irresponsible”, and says that the Socialists will reverse it if they are elected to power in 2012. Union leaders too have queued up to denounce the reforms. François Chérèque, one union boss, called it “a provocation”. A day of strikes and protests is planned for June 24th.

As a statement about France’s long-run resolve to control its public finances, it is also reasonably serious. France is running a high budget deficit (8% in 2010), which is closer to that of Greece (9%) than Germany (5%). Its gross public debt is forecast to be 85% this year. And it is under pressure from the credit-ratings agencies to send a strong message of its determination to get a grip on public finances.

Yet the plan is still disappointing, for several reasons. First, mindful of the resistance that this will prompt on the streets, President Nicolas Sarkozy has not been bold enough to raise the retirement age very high. Current pension reforms in other euro-zone countries go much further. Spain, for instance, is lifting its retirement age to 67 years by 2025. Nothing short of retirement at 65 in France would have constituted a true overhaul.

Second, the reform resolves the pension shortfall only until 2020. According to calculations by Laurence Boone, an economist at Barclays Capital in Paris, the pension-fund deficit will widen to €24.5 billion by 2030. In other words, it is yet another stop-gap measure in a system that will need further adjustments later on. Finally, the government’s forecasts are based on some fairly heroic assumptions about the French economy. One such is that the rate of unemployment, which is currently running at 10%, will by 2021 fall as low as 4.5%. Yet it has not reached that level since 1978. It could well be that equilibrium in the pension fund by 2018 turns out to be something of a mirage…

SNCF announces new strikes starting April 6

According to Bloomberg News, France and Britain will both experience rail strikes in the coming week. For the British, you can see more details by clicking on the links to the articles. I focus on France here.

Business Week quoted Bloomberg News:

Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer, or SNCF, plans strikes in April in the third walkout this year at the French railway. The CGT union, SNCF’s biggest, is asking drivers to call attention to demands on wages and working conditions. Freight workers, ticket-sales staff and other workers may join the strike in following days, Severine Leblond, an administrative assistant at the CGT, said today by phone.

New York Times In Transit travel blog:

Planned Rail Strikes in France and Britain
Bloomberg is reporting that in France, the biggest union of the S.N.C.F., the French national railroad, also plans strikes beginning April 6, the third walkout this year to call attention to its demands on wages and working conditions.

The union, the C.G.T., has been joined by the smaller C.F.D.T. labor group in calling on train drivers, a C.G.T. representative said Wednesday. Freight workers and other employees are set to join the strike in following days.

%d bloggers like this: