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French trains hit hard by latest protest over labor reform


    Commuters head to one of the few trains running after a strike starts at the Gare Saint Lazare train station, in Paris, Wednesday, June 1, 2016.

PARIS >> Much of France’s rail network has ground to a halt as rail workers strike to protest their working conditions and changes to French labor rules.

According to the SNCF national rail authority, about 40 percent of France’s high-speed trains and more than half of regional trains are cancelled. Eurostar trains to London are running normally, though more than half of trains to Spain and Italy are affected. Commuter trains serving Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport are also being impacted by the strike.

Three of the four unions representing workers at SNCF called for an open-ended strike Wednesday, and are threatening to stay off the job through the start of the European Championship soccer tournament next week. The SNCF train service will play a big role in transporting the 2.5 million spectators expected at stadiums across France for the monthlong event.

The strike is part of nationwide labor action this week tapping public anger at a bill allowing employers more freedom to lay off staff and extend working hours. The government hopes it will revive hiring and the economy, but unions see it as a threat to fundamental worker rights.

Some travelers impacted by train cancellations expressed solidarity with the striking workers.

“I support it, I support all the protests,” said commuter Katie Pold, disembarking from a packed train at the Gare de Lyon train station in eastern Paris.

But the strike caused drama and anguish for others.

“They cancelled my train yesterday, and now they told me to take another train, and they didn’t say what the train station was,” traveler Rossio Garcia from Argentina told The Associated Press. He said he went to the wrong train station, and when he learned the correct station, “I came running here and my train left and I missed my train. … Now I have to go to the airport, and I am so tired.”

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