Services set to improve on eighth day of French rail strike
Paris - KUNA
France started on Wednesday the eighth day of a crippling and costly rail strike, but services were set to improve somewhat as will of some strikers began to wane.
State-owned, national rail operator, SNCF, said in a statement that 60 percent of trains would be running on most mainline, intercity links during the day. This is significantly up from the 30 percent to 50 percent services provided at the beginning of the strike.
International services via Eurostar and Thalys are running normally, the operator said.
Unions for militant "Sud" union said on French radio Wednesday that they would continue industrial action until the government withdraws from parliament a draft bill to reform the rail service.
The bill is currently tabled and under discussion in the National Assembly.
The reforms call for streamlining the rail operator and associated companies and creating a single holding for the sector. Unions object, saying the bill masks a plan to align the public company with private sector working conditions and will mean loss of status and benefits for SNCF workers.
The SNCF is currently carrying a debt of Euros 44 billion and this is soon expected to rise to about Euros 50 billion in the near future if remedial action is not taken.
The unions have broken off talks several times with the government and management but it appears enthusiasm for the strike among workers is falling off because of the loss of pay. The cost of the strike is expected to run into hundreds of millions of Euros at a time when the French economy is struggling to recover and reduce public deficits