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Controversial French rail reform passed as strike ends

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Union leader Thierry Lepaon believes he failed to convince the public of the need for the rail strike

France’s controversial rail reform was passed on Tuesday after a 14-day strike that caused chaos to start with but crumbled as the bill made its way through parliament.


The law was passed by 355 votes to 168 with 27 abstentions, splitting the left and the mainstream right UMP.

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The last rail strikers demonstrated outside the Assemblée Nationale as the debate took place but the industrial action had effectively petered out at the weekend.

The law brings two companies, one responsible for transit, the other for track, under an umbrella grouping but does not satisfy the strikers’ demand that there be completely merged.

Nor does it cancel the debt of the track company, RFF.

That led the Left Front, which includes the Communist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Party, to vote against, even though its amendment that all the company’s employees had a single employer, the SNCF.

The ruling Socialist Party, the Greens and the centrist UDI all voted for but the right-wing UMP was divided, 24 voting for, 21 abstaining and 148 against on the grounds that the law is “anti-European” and “anti-competition”.

On Wednesday the leader of the main union that called the strike, Thierry Lepaon of the CGT, said that his organisation had “lost the battle of public opinion”.

The union had not managed to explain the reasons of the strike, even if it had won “concrete advances”, he told the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro.