European railworkers march in Paris against rail liberalisation
AFP: 13 Nov 2008
By Elise THIRY-BOUVIER
Thousands of rail workers, from a dozen European countries, demonstrated in Paris on Thursday at the invitation of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) against the railway policies of the EU and of the railway companies.
RMT anti-EU protesters in Paris (Photo: Andrew Wiard )
The railway workers - 20,000 according to unions, according to 8500 police - from Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain, marched behind a banner bearing the inscription in three languages: "Stop liberalisation", "No to EU rail privatisation" and "Stoppt die Liberalisierung."
"In the fight against global warming, the European Union is encouraging development of end-to-end rail freight corridors in Europe (...) All investments will be focussed on these corridors ignoring any other land management priorities", a development which is being denounced by the ETF. For the federation, this will lead to the deterioration of living and working conditions for railworkers."
The event was organised the day after a meeting in France of a commission to decide on amending a law on the organization of working conditions of freight train drivers, necessary according to SNCF (French railways) to increase competitiveness against private operators.
In the march, the ETF general secretary, the Portuguese Eduardo Chagas disagreed with "the proposed rail freight liberalisation by the European Commission which is preparing to auction off freight to those operators who can pay."
"There is a need to develop rail as a public service, (...) but the current strategies are nothing other than for the market, so we are saying enough is enough. We must reverse this policy, this obsession with liberalisation," said Chagas.
"All railworkers are aware that private operators see safety regulations as a constraint, a fact which may ultimately affect the safety of passengers", stormed Frenchman Didier Le Reste, head of the CGT-railworkers union.
An official of the British national railworkers’ union (National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport workers), Alex Gordon, told AFP that the privatisation of railways in Britain, inherited from Margaret Thatcher, had been "disastrous" for "quality and safety of the public service".
"We are 200 British workers who have come to tell the French and German people not to make the same mistake that the British did in 1996," he said.
"In Germany, only one month ago, the privatisation of 25% of Deutsche Bahn was stopped only thanks to the financial crisis," he pointed out.
In France, two unions have called for a renewal of train drivers’ strikes from Tuesday November 18.
The liberalisation of rail in the EU started in 2003 with international freight traffic, continued in 2006 (national freight traffic), and must be extended in 2010 to international passenger traffic.
Workers march to stop Europe-wide rail break-up
International Transport Workers' Federation: 14 November 2008
ETF railway demonstration Paris
Thousands of rail workers staged a demonstration in France’s capital city yesterday in protest over European Union plans for the wholesale sell-off of national railways.
Some 20,000 people representing trade unions from more than 12 European countries gathered in Paris at a demonstration, called by the ITF’s European arm, the ETF, to lobby against EU proposals to force EU governments to sell off national railways. The move is part of a relentless campaign to restructure and privatise the sector. Unions fear that the plans could lead to the complete fragmentation of Europe’s railway network.
A delegation from the ETF also met with Dominique Busserau, Secretary of State in charge of transport, representing the French presidency of the Transport Council of Ministers.
ETF Deputy General Secretary Sabine Trier, commented: “In the last few years the EU, the European Parliament and the Council of Transport Ministers have adopted three legislative packages for the railway sector. The consequences have been total restructuring, fragmentation and privatisation, and for workers more stress, less job security, longer hours and a cut in the workforce by half.”
She added: “European rail workers are saying ‘Enough is enough’ and protesting against more liberalisation and fragmentation, but more importantly, for publicly owned, environmentally sound, properly funded, customer responsive rail networks.”
Rail unions from India, Mongolia, Thailand and the US sent messages of support to the protestors.
Rail privatisation protests in Paris
Thousands of rail workers from across Europe have joined forces in Paris to show their anger at EU plans to reform railway services on the continent.
Steve Todd from the UK RMT Union said: ‘‘We’re demonstrating against the break-up of rail networks across Europe and the privatisation of networks across Europe. It’s the privateers who come and make big profits and destroy the rail network in the process.’‘
French unions are particularly fearful that France’s publicly owned rail network is being put at risk for the sake of profits.
Bernard Thibault, the CGT French union leader said: ‘‘If all the EU railway unions in Paris are asking for the same thing then it’s a situation requiring urgent action from the President of the European Union, who only a few weeks ago was saying that some market activities didn’t make any sense and that a new era was coming.’‘
In a bid to increase competition in the sector, the EU aims to see all international rail lines privatised by 2010, followed by a break up of the continent’s domestic rail services.
Railway trade unionists came from across Europe to protest in Paris
Neues Deutschland - socialist daily newspaper: 15.11.2008 / Page 9
Against privatisation and cutbacks
Railway workers are together on the streets because everywhere there are the same problems, confirms Dieter Mohr of the German TRANSNET union who along with 30 colleagues from the Saarland region on the French/German border stands alongside a banner reading "Fight Together" in eight languages on the poster of a railworker from Toulouse.
The bone of contention are European directives, which in recent years have paved the way for the break up of state-owned railways and for international predatory competition on the backs of employees, customers, safety and the environment and have led to the destruction of many jobs. "No more liberalisation and break ups" urges the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF). Instead of railways in the hands of private investors they should be the backbone of a social and ecological transport system promoted by the state, according to the federation.
Agapito Alcarazo of the Spanish UGT trade union complained that the separation of infrastructure and operations and the encroachment of privatised freight trains bring with them increasingly precarious employment for the workers. His expressions are similar to his colleagues from the Portuguese CGTP and the French SUD-Rail union. Hungarian trade unionist, Erika Tamasz laments the damage that Brussels’ pressure for liberalisation has led to in her country. Amongst a colourful sea of French CGT flags, which represents the majority of the demonstrators CGT leader Bernard Thibault points out: "Before the liberalisation directives, we had more freight moved by rail".
Strong delegations of the RMT and TSSA rail unions have travelled from Britain where the former British Rail was privatised some 14 years ago. TSSA chairman, Andy Bain warns of "imperialism" and an economic state of war existing in the railways. For example, Deutsche Bahn has now swallowed the largest British freight train operator EWS. The TSSA carried a 2004 Labour Party decision for re-nationalisation of the railways.
RMT executive committee member Alex Gordon reminds us: "If New Zealand has now re-nationalised its railway, then we can in Britain too." RMT members distributed a DVD with multilingual subtitles to the demonstrators, calling for a European-wide campaign against rail privatisation, the Lisbon Treaty and the dismantling of trade union rights. "This demonstration must be the prelude for a strong movement, with which we demand that European governments abandon privatisation and fragmentation of the railways and their workforces," says Gordon and he hopes that the Deutsche Bahn IPO will never happen. Meanwhile, a critical Hamburg railway worker calls for resistance to the removal of international overnight trains from the city to Brussels, Paris, and alpine winter sports areas. The closure of "unprofitable" connections is a direct consequence of excessive expectations for profit-making.
European rail unions demo
13 November 2008, Paris
Photos by Mac Urata, Used by permission
98 photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/workers_in_action/sets/72157609017750740/