FRENCH rail freight has being disrupted across France and at its major seaports as a week-long strike continued with no sign of settlement, reports IHS Media.
State-owned railway SNCF (Societe nationale des chemins de fer) has asked customers to postpone shipments scheduled for this week until further notice
The strike threatens to reverse the recent slight increase in rail's share of the overall domestic transport market after decades of decline.
A wave of rolling strikes in 2010 reduced traffic, with some shippers switching permanently to road transport.
The strike, by CGT, France's largest labour union, and the smaller Sud-Rail union, to protest government plans to reform the industry, has caused the most serious disruption in years.
The French Socialist government wants to place SNCF and the RFF rail network manager into a single holding company, while keeping their operations separate, in a bid to boost productivity and cut costs.
Unions want them fully merged as they were until 1997, and also demanded that the government to assume some of their combined EUR44 billion (US$60 billion) debt.
Support for the strike, which is opposed by other rail unions, appears to be waning. The SNCF said just over 14 per cent of its employees were on strike today, down from 17.5 per cent on Friday and over 27 per cent on the first day of the stoppage.
AFRA, the organisation representing private rail companies, said its members had activated measures drawn up in case of a strike to ensure continuity of service.
The 150,000 rank-and-file members of the state railway have often been singled out in the country as enjoying enviable job and pension rights under decades of monopoly status.
Meanwhile, French unions say they plan to increase the scope of strikes.
"For the moment this is just a massive warning strike," said Philippe Martinez, head of the large, hardliner CGT union.
Source : HKSG.