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Workers' rights on the line at state-run rail firm as government forces through EU-mandated shake-up

FRANCE will push through its EU-mandated shake-up of state rail firm SNCF by decree, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced today.

The government wants to make the company more “efficient” before the railways are opened up to competition, as demanded by Brussels.

Predictably, that means attacks on workers’ terms and conditions.

Mr Philippe insisted that SNCF will remain state-owned and ensure its role as a public service, but he acknowledged that recently hired SNCF employees will not benefit from special employment rights any more as normal labour rules will apply instead.

Current rights include a job for life with the ability to retire at 52 on a full pension. Family members also get reduced or free train rides.

The changes will be debated in parliament next month, but the PM made clear that they’ll be pushed through without a vote if MPs try to throw a spanner in the works.

Minsters were forced to push through the unpopular El Khomri laws severely weakening workers’ rights in line with European Union directives in 2016 using the same powers.

Three of the main unions representing 260,000 SNCF workers had already declared a strike for March 22 to oppose the plans.

But SUD rail union federal secretary Eric Meyer said the indication of special orders to push through the shake-up “means there is a risk of confiscation of the debate by the government” and so workers may be forced to “carry out a stronger and faster mobilisation.”

He said unions may be forced to opt for an indefinite strike, telling Europe 1: “Clearly it can take this form.”

The main CGT union, which is leading next month’s mobilisation, attacked President Emmanuel Macron for pushing ahead with the plans.

Leader Philippe Martinez said: “The government is trying to push through the reform without entering into negotiations.”

He told French TV channel France 3: “Mr Macron is trying to divide those who have very little.

“He is arrogant and vindictive. He struggles to listen to those who address him directly and ask him too many questions.

“Pensioners versus youths, rail workers versus farmers. He’s constantly driving the wedge between those who have very little and those who have nothing at all.”

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