23:58 GMT +324 April 2018
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    Railway workers go on strike in France

    Railway Protests in Paris Turn Wild: Masked Men Started Breaking Shop Windows

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    On Tuesday afternoon, a demonstration of railroad workers opposing the reform of the National Company of French Railways (SNCF)started in the Gare d'Est Railway Station in Paris. At the very beginning of the column, there was a group of masked men, who later turned the protest into a rampage, Sputnik correspondent reported.

    Young people, dressed in black and with masks on their faces, began to smash shop windows and offices along the path of the column's movement, throwing bottles at policemen, turning over the urns. The police used hoses against the rioters.

    Garbage collectors and students joined the railway workers' demonstration. Garbage collectors are protesting against difficult working conditions and demanding early retirement. Students are opposed to the planned changes to the university enrollment system.

    Reform of the railway company, a monopoly in France, involves, in particular, the introduction of competition in the railway industry, as well as the elimination in the future of the special rights of the railway workers, which included a number of benefits.

    Some railroad workers feared that the SNCF reform could lead to its privatization. However, the French government refutes such a plan. On Tuesday, the French Minister of Transport once again assured that the privatization of the company will not be conducted, and stressed that a number of organizers of the strike disseminate incorrect information and are trying to translate the debate into a political plane.

    On Tuesday, about 50% of railway workers took part in this national strike in France, including 77% of train drivers. In this regard, a large number of high-speed trains TGV, regional TER and shuttle trains RER in the Ile-de-France region has been canceled. Many French have had to adapt and choose alternative routes to get to work.

    It is expected that the strike, organized by the French unions CGT, Unsa and CFDT, could last for almost three months — until June 28. If it is not possible to reach an agreement with the government, railway workers intend to strike every week on a two-day schedule, a total of 36 days.

    Emmanuel Macron, who ran his successful presidential campaign on a "pro-business" platform, has seen his popularity rapidly decline in his first year in office as he has sought to introduce measures to weaken the strength of the country's unions and give employers the ability to more easily fire their employees. The president has attempted to sell the measures as necessary to stimulate economic growth.

    On top of the rail-strikes, Air France employees have also walked off the job over pay rates, causing major air-travel delays in what could collectively amount to the most intense period of industrial action in recent French history.    

    Followers on social media have generally been supportive of the industrial action, accusing the president, a former investment banker, of serving "the one percent." 

    ​Heading to France in April, May or June? French rail unions have called strikes for all of these days so make sure you plan ahead… https://t.co/YqsVru8IMj

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    rampage, protest, Paris
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