French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

Uniformed French customs officials search a silver Mercedes vehicle
(Photo: Raymond Roig / AFP)

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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SNCF strike: Rail services across France cut as unions walk out in cost-of-living row

Rail unions are staging a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the eve of the summer holidays, in a dispute over the cost of living, forcing national train operator SNCF to drastically reduce services across France and urge users to postpone their journeys

SNCF strike: Rail services across France cut as unions walk out in cost-of-living row

Nearly a quarter of TGVs have been cancelled, the day before France’s schools break up for the grandes vacances, as the CGT, Unsa, SUD-Rail and CFDT unions stage a 24-hour strike demanding wage increases in the face of rising inflation.

Just three trains out of four are running as scheduled on the Northern TGV Inoui, Eastern and Atlantic axes; while four out of five services and two out of three Ouigo trains will operate on the South-East network. 

READ ALSO Planes, trains and roads: France’s timetable for 2022 summer strikes

International traffic – such as Eurostar, Thalys or Lyria – should run “almost normally” throughout the day, according to SNCF Voyageurs. 

Intercité and regional TER services, however, are heavily affected by the walkout. Just one Intercité train in three is running, while all overnight services except for Paris-Nice have been cancelled, and three out of five scheduled regional TER services will not run.

Customers whose journeys have been cancelled should have been notified by SMS, SNCF Voyageurs said. The carrier offered train changes, but also encouraged users to postpone their travel if at all possible.

Commuters in Ile-de-France, meanwhile, face problems getting in and out of work with the following services in the greater Paris region affected.

Transilien Lines H and P: One train in three will operate

Transilien Lines J, L, N, R, U: One train in two will run as scheduled

RER B, C, D, E: One train in two will run.

T4: One tram will operate every 15 minutes

The strikes, coming so close to the start of the grandes vacances – the first big getaway of the summer is expected this weekend – will concern those looking forward to their holidays, with thousands of early getaways already disrupted by strikes by employees and subcontractors of Aéroport de Paris, firefighters from Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, easyJet and Ryanair, in particular, causing the cancellation of several hundred flights.

SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou insisted in late June that upcoming holiday departures were “not threatened” despite the threat of walkouts and said that the number of railway workers would be increased.

“We have put the issues on the table, we try to build a balance, because increasing wages is one thing, but there is also an economic issue: it costs and we must be careful about the impact on the price of tickets, for example,” he told broadcaster Public Senate. 

“It is necessary that at the end of the year, the company remains balanced so that it does not cost the country.”

READ ALSO When – and where – to avoid driving on France’s roads this summer

Unions and SNCF bosses are set for talks on Wednesday.