During the First World War there was the so-called Christmas Truce, a brief cease-fire between British and German soldiers at Christmas 1914 in which the enemies left their weapons for a few hours and sang Christmas carols and exchanged gifts.
One hundred and five years later, there was no Christmas truce in the pulse between the French government and the unions for pension reform. The unions turned a deaf ear to the call of French President Emmanuel Macron to suspend the stoppages at Christmas.
The unions are not willing to give their arm to twist and continue the fight against Macron's pension reform. The transport strike, which began on December 5 and has disrupted the daily life and vacations of many French people, continues and will continue in the new year.
The stoppages on Christmas Eve and Christmas continued in the SNCF (the French RENFE) and in the Paris metro, for which many travelers had to look for another form of transport to be with their relatives on these dates. Others were forced to cancel or postpone their trips because of strikes.
On Christmas day, only one in three TGVs circulated in France. And in Paris only two lines, the automatic ones without a driver, of the 16 that are in the subway of the capital worked.
If the first weekend of the holiday trip was complicated for SCNF customers because of the large number of canceled trains, the second weekend seems that the situation will improve slightly, although rail traffic will continue to be greatly affected by The stoppages. The state railway company announced that between December 27 and 29, 6 out of 10 TGVs will circulate. In the first week, they did half of high-speed trains.
Macron wants to merge the 42 current pension schemes and establish a universal point system in which all workers enjoy the same rights in their retirement for the same contributions. Now some workers of the so-called "special regimes" - among which are the workers of the SCNF, the subway of the capital and the Paris Opera - are retiring earlier or with better conditions than the rest of French workers.
The president of the SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, has begun to make numbers on how much the strike against the pension reform is costing his company. "We calculate losses of 20 million euros per day ... so, after 20 days, we accumulate 400 million euros of losses," Farandou acknowledged in an interview published on Monday by the newspaper Le Monde. "The conflict is not over and it is still too early to take stock," but "the 2019 accounts will be strongly altered by this conflict," he warned.
The SCNF is not the only one that loses money. Since the beginning of the strike, at the Paris Opera they have lost 8 million euros in box office revenues and 45 opera and ballet shows have been canceled. Losses at the end of the year could rise to 12 million euros, according to its director Stéphane Lissner.
On Christmas Eve the dancers and the orchestra of the Paris Opera performed an excerpt from the "Swan Lake" in front of the entrance of the Garnier Opera in protest. "Paris Opera on strike" and "Culture in danger", read the banners. They struggle to maintain their pension scheme dating back to 1698, one of the oldest in France.
January will be a socially hot month in France, despite falling temperatures. The Executive will receive unions and social partners next January 7, two days after a month of continuous stoppages in public transport is expected. "I don't know what the government wants to discuss," replied Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), who demands Macron to withdraw the pension reform project if they want the stoppages to stop.
Several unions - CGT, Fuerza Obrera (FO), Solidaires and FSU - have called for a new day of demonstrations across the country on January 9 against pension reform.
The calendar between the government and the unions to negotiate will be tight. On January 22, it is planned that the reform be dealt with in the Council of Ministers and that the National Assembly begin to discuss the project in February.
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