France faces a “massive” rail strike on Tuesday

The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, faces on Tuesday a first day of “massive” strike by the workers of the National Society of Railways of France (SNCF, for its acronym in English), which seek to prevent the liberalization of the railway sector foreseen in the reform promoted by the leader.

It is expected that this Wednesday, April 3, the massive strike paralyze much of the French network of trains, as picked up by the television network France 24. Currently, the national railway company in the country maintains the monopoly of the passenger network and its capital is exclusively public.

Although they acquired great prestige, large investments in expensive high-speed train lines have caused serious economic damage to the company.

The plan of the Gallic Government includes opening between 2019 and 2033 the network to private competition in compliance with the directives of the European Union. The French national railway company would thus be transformed into a limited company, such as Air France.

While the government has promised that the state will remain the majority shareholder of the company, the unions and the left fear a privatization, so the unions have called to protest against the measure and stop working two out of every five days during the three months that negotiations with the Government could last.

The last time a French president confronted railway unions was in 1995, when Paris was paralyzed and Prime Minister Alain Juppé was forced to withdraw the reforms.

However, the unions are now much weaker. More than half of the French see the strike as unjustified, according to the results of an Ifop survey published this Sunday.

“The French do not want three months of chaos without any justification,” said Transport Minister Elizabeth Borne, according to the newspaper ‘Le Journal du Dimanche’.

The SNCF expects one of the biggest strikes in years, given that at least one in two workers have assured that they will join. During the same, the trains at international level will be affected –no will depart to Switzerland, Italy and France–. Only one in three trains to Germany will be available and the Eurostar service connecting London, Paris and Brussels will circulate with an average of three out of four trains.