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French rail strike causes widespread weekend train cancelations

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Passengers wait on the platform during the SNCF conductors strike at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris on Friday. Photo by Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE
Passengers wait on the platform during the SNCF conductors strike at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris on Friday. Photo by Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- France's state state-owned railway company says it has canceled more than half of its scheduled trips this weekend due to a nationwide strike by rail conductors.

SNCF imposed the drastic service cutbacks as about 10,000 conductors were on strike Saturday demanding better work conditions.

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The three-day job action is expected to last until Sunday evening.

The cancelations severely affected rail traffic between France and Switzerland, where only one out of every three trains normally scheduled were running.

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Trains to Switzerland and Italy were cut by two-thirds, trains to Germany were cut by half, while all trains to Spain were canceled, SCNF said.

Around 3,000 of the striking workers are employed by French intercity service providers, where they conduct passenger safety and traffic operations. Nearly 60% of intercity, or TGV, train service was canceled over the weekend.

Service is expected to gradually return to normal on Monday.

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Union leaders say the strike is meant to draw more attention to rules requiring that members work three weekends per month and sleep away from home for more than 10 nights per month.

The conductors' union met twice with management without progress before the strike. Other unions joined in support, and have filed strike notice for both the Christmas and New Year's weekends to put pressure on SNCF.

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The strike comes before the start of mandatory annual salary negotiations between the carrier and the French rail unions, which begin next week.

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"It is a strike that we did not see coming, neither we nor the unions," SNCF Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Farandou told Swissinfo ahead of the weekend's slowdown.

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