17:30 GMT25 September 2020
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    PARIS (Sputnik) - The French government's reform of state-owned monopolist railway company SNCF should deal with the issue of financing to modernize the country's railway system instead of putting the blame on rail workers and abolishing their special status, Thomas Cavel, the national secretary of the CFDT Cheminots union, told Sputnik.

    "Today, we stigmatize railroaders with their special status … But they [the government] are not dealing with the debt, ignore financing, which is key to building an efficient railway service," Cavel said.

    Cavel's words come on a day of public service protests across France, which were joined by employees of the SNCF. According to Cavel, the strike action allowed rail service workers to demonstrate their determination as well as discontent with the reform which "focused on the wrong subject."

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    "In order to pass this reform, the government decided to divide the public opinion by saying 'look, there are rail workers who enjoy a special status, and if something goes wrong it is their fault.' That’s a policy of division and stigmatization… What worries us is that the government will pass a reform, [which deals with] the wrong subject, which will not address the problems of the railway system," the official underlined.

    Cavel said he regarded protests as a tool and "the last resort" measure. At the same time, he stressed that if the government failed to engage in real negotiations with rail workers, the protests would continue as planned.

    French rail workers earlier announced a wave of two-day strikes, which are expected to begin on 3 April, and continue until 28 June.

    In late February, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe unveiled plans to reform the SNCF, part of which would entail getting rid of the rail workers' special status that has been in place since 1930s. Philippe noted the "alarming condition" of the SNCF, whose debt now stands at some 50 billion euros ($61.5 billion), and called for opening the railway sector to competition in order to boost the quality of services and lower ticket prices. French media have also reported that rail reform could lead to the closure of less frequented railway routes.


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    financing, staff, reform, railway, France
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