Government will not buckle to striking rail workers, says French PM

The French government will not back down on rail reforms despite the unions launching a series of strikes that caused major disruptions in the network on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said while he respected the strikers, as the right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution, he wanted the voice of millions of French opposed to the strike to also be heard.
“I must say that as much as I hear strikers, who sometimes speak forcefully, I hear those who do not accept this strike,” he said. “More precisely, I hear those who want to go to work, want to continue to benefit from their constitutional freedom to come and go.”
The four main rail unions are organising the strike, which will see partial disruption of services on two out of five days over the next three months. 
The strike, spread over 36 days, is in protest against the government’s plans to overhaul SNCF, the state-run rail operator, and to scrap the special status granted to workers, which guarantees a job for life and early retirement.
Union leaders say they do not want a conflict with the authorities, but the government has refused to reconsider its plans for the rail service. 
Their action will be called off only after President Emmanuel Macron drops his bid to bring about a major overhaul in SNCF’s functioning.