Fires, Rail Sabotage Reported in France During Transit Strike
In the continuing saga that is the transit strike in France, thousands of transit workers are still away from work, forcing hundreds of thousands to walk or take over-stressed taxis and what little transit is working. Today rail lines were switched without notice and fires were set along the routes.
Transit union leaders met with France’s state-owned rail operator and the government today in the opening round of negotiations that came on the eighth day of strikes, a day that was punctuated by arson fires along high-speed rail lines.
The national rail service, S.N.C.F., blamed the fires on a “concerted act of sabotage” and said there were several blazes along rail lines, including one that damaged 30 kilometers of a signal network.
S.N.C.F. also reported the deliberate shutting of signal switches and arson attacks on cables.
Dominique Bussereau, the state secretary of transport, denounced the fires as “grave and reprehensible” acts that appeared to be coordinated.
Top union officials also condemned the arson attacks. Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the CGT union, told the Europe 1 radio station that to attack the rail lines during a social conflict was "certainly destined to bring discredit to the profession."
Along with rail managers, two representatives of the labor ministry and the state transport secretariat were involved in negotiations today. The government’s participation was one of the key demands of unions.
On Tuesday, President Nicolas Sarkozy broke his silence on the strike and urged transport workers to return to work. On that day, civil service employees, including primary school teachers, firefighters, newspaper printers and weather service employees, walked out in a separate dispute over job cuts.