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As Exasperation Mounts, French Rail Strike Turns Violent

Jun 18, 2014
Originally published on June 18, 2014 5:09 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's Business News begins with strikes in France. A violent strike affecting France's passenger trains has gone into a second week. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports the strikers are worried proposed changes to the rail system will mean lost jobs.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: As angry rail workers try to march to the French Parliament, where a contentious rail reform is being debated, riot police fired tear gas. A rail official who tried to reason with them was accused of being a traitor and a collaborator.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOT)

BEARDSLEY: Though only 14 percent of union members are continuing the walkout after one week - they're crucial train drivers and conductors - so at least a third of trains are still not running. The rail workers are against the French government's plan to combine the state train operator - the SNCF - with the nation's rail network in order to reduce debt and prepare the system for coming passenger rail competition throughout Europe. In the near future, French passengers will also be able to choose from different carriers. For example, to take a German Deutsche Bahn train in France. Even in a nation used to frequent paralyzing strikes, there is mounting exasperation.

JEAN DURAND: (French spoken).

BEARDSLEY: It is scandalous, says Paris commuter Jean Durand. Too much is too much. The beleaguered socialist government says it won't back down. Unpopular French president Francois Hollande just might have the support to win this one. A poll out Tuesday shows 76 percent of the French are completely against the strikers. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.