Destinations Magazine

French Rail Strikes: Unhappiness is the Truth

By Stizzard
French rail strikes: Unhappiness is the truth The long march to work

IT WAS a deliciously French moment of exasperation. On June 16th a railway strike prompted public rage when it threatened to disrupt a national philosophy exam. On the sixth day of a rolling strike, unions at the SNCF national railway encroached on the first day of the baccalauréat school-leaving exam, a ritual that begins with a four-hour philosophy essay. As strikers downed tools and commuters battled to work, some 340,000 French teenagers were wrestling with the question “Do we live in order to be happy?”If François Hollande had been sitting the exam, he would surely have answered: “Fat chance as long as there are rail unions around.” A strike originally expected to be short-lived was extended on June 18th into its ninth day, the worst industrial action since he became president in 2012. On some days, more than half of TGV fast trains have been cancelled, as well as two-thirds of certain commuter trains in the Paris region. The SNCF management called it the worst strike for 13 years.The two unions behind it, the CGT, which is close to the Communist Party, and the even harder-talking SUD…


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