French rail strike bites amid labor law standoff

Striking rail workers halted about half of all French train services on Wednesday in a dispute over working time as a standoff between the militant’s Capital gains tax (CGT) union and the Socialist government over a proposed labour law reform.

The SNCF state railway said six out of 10 high-speed TGV trains were running, along with one-third of other inter-city services and half of regional trains. Heavy flooding also cut some lines in central France and the rail link to Luxembourg.

Eurostar train services to Britain were not affected, while 75 percent of trains to Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland were operating.

Three of the four rail unions called their members out on an open-ended strike over a planned reorganization, though the government has intervened to Press SNCF management to protect train drivers’ weekends off.

Managers say that concession could make the heavily indebted company uncompetitive when it has to open up to private competition in 2020 under EU rules.