French MPs adopt sig­na­ture Macron rail re­form

The Nation - - WORLD -

FRENCH law­mak­ers have over­whelm­ingly backed a con­tro­ver­sial re­form of in­debted state rail op­er­a­tor SNCF, hand­ing Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron a key vic­tory in his bat­tle with trade unions.

The vote in the Na­tional Assem­bly is a blow to the labour move­ment, which called three months of rolling strikes over the bill, the long­est in­dus­trial ac­tion in over 30 years on French rail­ways.

Mem­bers of the lower house of par­lia­ment, where the rul­ing party has a large ma­jor­ity, adopted the bill by 452 votes for to 80 against and 27 ab­sten­tions.

The bill now goes to the Se­nate for a fi­nal vote on Thursday.

An­a­lysts have com­pared the stand­off be­tween the cen­trist Macron and French rail­work­ers with Mar­garet Thatcher’s show­down with Bri­tish min­ers in the 1980s.

It is be­ing closely watched as a sign of Macron’s abil­ity to face down France’s unions, which have had suc­cess in pres­sur­ing pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments to with­draw, or sig­nif­i­cantly wa­ter down, un­pop­u­lar re­forms.

Train driv­ers par­tic­u­larly had re­sisted plans to deny job and pen­sion guar­an­tees to new rail re­cruits, as well as plans to turn the SNCF into a joint­stock com­pany, which they see as a first step to­ward pri­vati­sa­tion.

The gov­ern­ment ar­gues the loss­mak­ing SNCF, a bas­tion of the union move­ment, needs to cut costs and im­prove flex­i­bil­ity be­fore the EU pas­sen­ger rail mar­ket opens up to com­pe­ti­tion.

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