French Rail Unions Oppose Government Reforms
The French government has announced new proposals to reform the French railway system, and French railway workers and the unions that represent them are not pleased. Both of the major unions that represent the workers have announced that they are prepared to call for months long strikes if the government tries to implement the newly proposed laws.
The government has proposed several measures. Overall, the government wants to change the management structure of the railways. They want the railways to be autonomous and yo be able to make their own financial decisions. However, government officials have been quick to point out that they do not want to privatize the railways.
In addition to this large reform, the government wants to reform work contracts. Right now, French railway workers are virtually guaranteed a job for life. Under new regulations, it would be easier to dismiss newly hired workers. French railway workers are also guaranteed the right to work only a seven-hour day.
Other governmental reforms related to workers deal with pensions and retirement. French railway workers are allowed to retire when the reach the age of 52. They are provided with a hefty pension as well. The government wants to make railway workers work longer before pension eligibility, and they want to cut the amount paid to retirees.
Finally, the government seeks to end some of the other perks of being a French railway worker. The French railway workers receive the right to live in special housing. They also are allowed to live in certain other types of housing at a reduced rate of rent.
There have been other attempts to reform the rail system that have failed under stiff opposition. In order to force the issue, President Macron wants to make the reforms by an executive decree instead of taking the issue through the French Legislature.
Whichever way the government wants to take the reforms, French unions will be in opposition. There are plans underway to completely stop rail service throughout France. It will be a battle between the government and the French unions. The deciding factor will be the French public who may quickly tire of not being able to get on the train. With Macron's low-level of popularity, the unions hope the public will come down on their side.
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