Government commits rail reform

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Ludovic MARIN – | The SNCF logo on February 15, 2018 in Paris, a few days before the announcement of the calendar and main lines of its reform

The government must unveil Monday its strategy to lead the high-risk reform of rail and SNCF, including whether it intends to legislate by orders, a passage in force that the unions would consider a declaration of war.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who plans to address the press at 10:00, will specify “issues of method and timing” and “major axes” of his reform, according to his services.

He must explain how he intends to prepare for opening to competition, transform the SNCF, and eventually resume some of its heavy debt.

“We have elements of status and management of the company that must be adapted,” said Saturday the President Emmanuel Macron to an employee of the SNCF worried that he was arrested at the inauguration of the salon of the Agriculture.

“I can not have farmers on one side who do not have a pension and on the other have a railway status and not change it,” said the president. “You do not have the same pace as my grandfather who was a railway,” he said, while ensuring not wanting to “break everything”.

The end of the railroad status for new hires, following the example of what has already been done for La Poste and Orange, is one of the avenues envisaged by the former Air France boss, Jean-Cyril Spinetta, in a report made on February 15 to the government, and much criticized by the railway unions.

The latter call for the moment only a demonstration on March 22, but they agreed to consult Tuesday, after the announcements of Matignon.

– Threat of “major conflict” –

The CGT, UNSA, SUD-Rail and CFDT federations have already threatened the government with a “major conflict” if it chooses the way of the orders, as for the labor law, in order to move all or part of its project.

The government must in any case go quickly on part of the file, because the “fourth railway package” European, which provides the arrival of competition on the rails, must be transcribed in French law before December 25.

“What the government wants to do, that is to say, to go into force without discussions, without pinpointing the real problems, well it may make things worse,” warned Sunday on France 3 the secretary General of the CGT, Philippe Martinez.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT – | Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (G) speaks with Minister of Transport Elisabeth Borne on September 27, 2017 in Paris

“I challenge anyone to tell me that the problem of SNCF, the problem of trains late, the problem of trains canceled and lanes that are poorly maintained is because of the status of railway workers”, lambasted the trade unionists, blaming these “problems” on “successive governments who favored” high-speed lines or abandoned hiring.

Among his 43 proposals to the government, Spinetta also suggests that the public company may temporarily launch voluntary redundancy plans. And in the case of some lines crossing the competition – which could be possible for the TER from the end of 2019 -, he believes that staff should be transferred to new operators (without losing most of their benefits) .

Regarding the status of SNCF, the Spinetta report proposes that its two main components, SNCF Mobilités and SNCF Réseau, be transformed into public limited companies – as SNCF was before 1982 – so as to no longer benefit automatically from the unlimited state guarantee.

For the former head of Air France, the state should also take “a share” of the very heavy debt of SNCF Network (46.6 billion euros at the end of 2017).

It also suggests “refocusing rail transport on its area of ​​relevance: daily transport in urban and peri-urban areas, and high-speed services between major cities”. With a consequence that has been much in the news in recent days: the closure of “small lines” which the upgrade would cost too much.

Matignon has already answered on this point that we would act on a case by case basis, in consultation with the regions.

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