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November 22, 2007
Strikers Sabotage Rail Lines in France
An eight day walk out of transit workers in France took a new turn yesterday as fires broke out on four separate rail lines of the high speed TGV system:
The early morning outbreak of fires on the electrical lines supplying the T.G.V. high-speed trains happened hours before talks between transit union and government officials. The transit workers are one of several unions on strike, protesting government changes in work rules instigated by President Sarkozy.
The negotiators met for more than four hours and agreed to continue on Monday, while strike-weary travelers endured the eighth day of a walkout with no end in sight. The fires raised the question of whether the striking unions were losing control of their most militant members.
Top union officials condemned the attacks and insisted that there was no proof of union involvement. Bernard Thibault, the secretary general of the Confédération Générale du Travail, a powerful union, said such attacks during a strike were “certainly designed to bring discredit to the profession.” Government officials also condemned the fires. They stopped short of blaming the unions.
The problem for authorities is that it only takes a small number of radicals to close down the entire rail system - an economic disaster if it occurred. But the union and government are still talking with more negotiations scheduled for Monday.
Sarkozy knew it wouldn't be easy to reform the French workforce to make it more productive. Judging by what's happening with the transit workers, he was right.