46 days: Marseille public transport strike ends

24th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Nov 24 (AFP) - A long-running public transport strike in France's second-biggest city of Marseille finally came to an end Thursday, 46 days after it started, without unions winning a key demand they had been fighting for.

MARSEILLE, France, Nov 24 (AFP) - A long-running public transport strike in France's second-biggest city of Marseille finally came to an end Thursday, 46 days after it started, without unions winning a key demand they had been fighting for.

"Everybody will be at work tomorrow (Friday)," a representative of the CFDT union, Yves Rodriguez, said.

He warned, though, that a strike notification was still active, meaning the stoppage could happen again at any moment.

"By the 46th day, it was starting to get difficult," acknowledged Alain Vercellone, a representative of the hardline CGT union.

Employees of the RTM public authority that runs Marseille's bus and metro (subway) networks voted to suspend their strike in several depots this week, leading to a general vote on Thursday.

Some were facing tough financial situations because of the lengthy period without pay.

"I'm filled with bitterness and hate. We didn't obtain anything, but they starved us out," one bus driver, Michel, said after he and his colleagues reluctantly resumed operations on Monday.

The unions began the strike on October 4 to protest what they see as a move by the RTM to set the ground for the privatisation of a planned tramway in Marseille.

The RTM has called on Connex, a private company, to partner with the public service body selected to run the tramway.

Despite prolonged and often interrupted negotiations during the strike, the unions failed to have their demand met for RTM to retain management control of the new tram network.

The strike severely disrupted public transport in Marseille, forcing commuters to turn to hitch-hiking, car-pooling and walking to go between work and home. Businesses took out billboards denouncing what they said was the unions taking the local economy "hostage".

According to the RTM, the strike cost it more than five million euros.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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