French train workers start strike to protest Macron labor reforms


At the busy Gare du Lyon station in Paris, the platforms were so crammed that a woman fell onto the tracks and had to be helped out by fellow passengers.

An aide said: "We missed all the big technological revolutions of recent years, but France has a card to play in the field of artificial intelligence".

Three out of four Eurostar trains to London and Brussels will run and the Thalys train toward Belgium and the Netherlands will operate nearly as normal, but there will be none at all towards Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Further walkouts are planned for April 7, 10 and 11.

They are protesting a government plan to prepare SNCF before the service is opened to competition and to end some worker benefits.

Just one in four trains were running in the Paris region, national rail company SNCF said, as people made their way back to work after an extended Easter holiday weekend on what French media dubbed "Black Tuesday". Either way, Macron is alive to the downsides of automation, saying "my role is not to block this change, but to be able to train or retrain people for them to get opportunities in this new world".

Unions accuse Macron, a centrist ex-investment banker, of seeking to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism".

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A senior SNCF manager, Alain Krakovitch, told Le Parisien that only 12% of high-speed TGV trains would operate on Tuesday, and the low-priced Ouigo service would be at a standstill.

Translation: Macron sees the AI that U.S. companies are creating as too focused on solving those companies' problems, rather than citizens'.

Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne urged labor unions to negotiate, telling BFM TV in an interview on Tuesday that "some of them are clearly trying to turn this into a political issue".

The most powerful unions in France are taking action against President Emmanuel Macron's unwinding of labour market protections.

The widespread, coordinated industrial walkout could pressure the president to adjust his proposals, as other French union strikes have forced Macron's predecessors to do in the past. The unions also fear that the reform of the government will allow in the future to privatize a state-owned company.

RTL radio reported that her office might have laughed off one or two attempts to cash in on the first lady's status, but staff had enough after similar e-mails were sent from destinations as far-flung as France, Morocco, Australia and Hong Kong.