French State Offers Debt Relief in Return for Railway Shakeup

Photo: Michael Gaida

(From Reuters)

Emmanuel Macron’s government, hoping to end a protracted French train strike, offered on Friday to soak up most of the national SNCF rail company’s debt as long as modernization plans to make the railways more cost-effective are implemented, unions said.

The offer to absorb the bulk of SNCF debt — 35 billion of a total 47 billion euros ($55 billion)— goes some way to meeting the demands of more moderate unions involved in a strike that has halved train service for much of the past two months.

The offer was announced by the unions after meeting Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who hopes moderate unions involved, primarily the CFDT and Unsa unions, will now pull out of the industrial action.

The Unsa union said the debt relief offer showed it was worth negotiating with the government but the hardline CGT union’s chief rail representative, Laurent Brun, said “the conflict goes on.”

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