France’s train traffic disrupted amid strike for higher pay

PARIS (AP) — A strike by railway workers demanding higher pay amid cost of living increases interrupted train services in France on Wednesday.

National railway company SNCF said about one high-speed train in four was canceled, while regional services such as suburban trains in the Paris region experienced disruptions.

International lines, including Eurostar trains to London and Thalys trains to Brussels, were expected to run normally Wednesday, SNCF said.

The CGT, Unsa, SUD-Rail and CFDT unions called the one-day strike. A meeting between unions and SNCF’s management was scheduled for Wednesday.

The CGT said in a statement that it wants “general wage increases at least equal to rising inflation” after 10 years of wage freezes.

“When you go to the supermarket, when you fill up your tank, when you have to pay your bills, that’s where it’s difficult,” Fabien Villedieu, a train driver and SUD-Rail union spokesperson, told The Associated Press. “And when your wage is frozen, you worry about it every day.”

“The number one problem in France isn’t the strike at the SNCF, it’s the frozen wages and the loss in terms of purchasing power,” he added.

In a Paris train station, French retiree Michel Bardet, 64, said he understands the reasons for the strike. “It doesn’t bother me, on the contrary, I think it’s normal,” he said, adding that “it’s good that people fight for that (pay rise).”

Another traveler, Fatima Martins, 45, came as a tourist with her family from Portugal. They managed to travel by train from Fontainebleau, south of Paris, to the French capital on Wednesday morning, despite disruptions.

“At the station, we were told half the trains had been canceled so we were a little skeptical but everything went well,” she said.

The strike takes place as many travelers are planning to use trains to go on summer vacations.

The SNCF advised people to cancel or postpone their trips and to work from home, when possible.

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AP reporter Alexander Turnbull contributed to the story.

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