Social unrest linked to spiraling cost of living spreads to French railways

PARIS, July 6 (Reuters) – Railway workers in France went on strike on Wednesday, disrupting travel on the rail network days before the start of the summer holidays and at a time of unrest in other parts of the economy as high inflation eats away at wages.

With three of the four main unions at SNCF, the French public rail operator, taking part in the strike, almost a third of intercity and regional rail services have been cancelled. Commuter trains to and from Paris were also impacted.

“I’m sure there are requests, and I respect that. But at the same time, people’s time and plans also have to be respected,” said Reza Terakshani, an American traveler whose train had been cancelled.

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The railway strike follows industrial action in the energy sector and walkouts by airport workers at the country’s main air hub, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, as workers disgruntled and frustrated by the high cost of living express their anger. read more, read more

The tense social climate is a challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, whose centrist alliance lost its absolute majority in parliament last month after voters punished him for not listening to their daily grievances.

French inflation hit a record high of 6.5% in June, driven by a sharp rise in food and energy prices. Read more

The Macron government will this week unveil legislation aimed at relieving inflation. Read more

Railway unions are calling for wages to be adjusted for inflation and an increase in the minimum wage, as well as higher bonuses to offset price increases.

“Railway workers accept a lot of sacrifices. They know, once hired, that they will have to work weekends or nights. But compensation is not enough,” Bruno Poncet, of the Sud-Rail union, told Reuters .

Wednesday’s strike is expected to last a day. The unions said they are discussing their next move if their demands are not met.

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Reporting by Caroline Palliez, Antony Paone; written by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Richard Lough, Alexandra Hudson

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