Passengers: AFRA calls for a modern and coherent collective agreement for the benefit of the rail industry

Now that his position has been bolstered by a new official letter of guidance from the President of France, the Chairman of the SNCF has laid down a number of conditions for the opening-up of the rail transport market in a letter, dated February 18, to the French Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing.

Now that his position has been bolstered by a new official letter of guidance from the President of France, the Chairman of the SNCF has laid down a number of conditions for the opening-up of the rail transport market in a letter, dated February 18, to the French Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing.

The proposal that the government should issue guidelines on social dialogue and supervise its outcome is unacceptable. Social dialogue should be allowed to function unhindered, as was the case for collective bargaining in the freight sector.

The President of the Republic has gone on record as saying that he would like liberalisation of the rail transport market to go ahead with “harmonised labour agreements.” The Chairman of the SNCF has interpreted this statement to mean that collective agreements covering all employees and operators in the industry should be based exclusively on those in force with the incumbent operator. He even requests the government to support this approach, although no liberalisation of any market in France (airlines, telecoms or energy) has been subject to such constraints!
    
In addition, this approach takes no account of the advantages enjoyed by the SNCF under current competitive tendering arrangements: its knowledge of the market and its control over sales networks, traffic flows and stations. Apparently, the incumbent operator now wants to benefit from an additional and unjustifiable advantage.

In AFRA’s view, the opening-up of the rail transport market to competition, as has been the case in other European countries, should be an opportunity for the railways and the incumbent operator to usher in a new phase of their development, for the benefit of all stakeholders (passengers, railway workers, organising authorities, infrastructure managers and operators, including the incumbent). A new balance must be negotiated between an efficient organisation of work and the compensation package that rewards it, as has happened successfully for rail freight.

Any attempt to apply the SNCF’s business model to the new market entrants would be a negation of the very principle of competition. AFRA considers that this approach would be tantamount to endorsing the SNCF’s existing model and would therefore deprive passengers, local authorities and public finances of the commercial innovation and operational performance that can be achieved by submitting a public sector monopoly to the pressures of a competitive market.

AFRA (L’Association Française du Rail) sincerely hopes that the forthcoming round of labour negotiations within the UTP (Union des Transports Publics – Public Transport Union) will culminate rapidly in an industry wide collective agreement that will establish a modern and coherent framework of compensation and working conditions for the benefit of the rail industry as a whole.

AFRA (Association Française du Rail):
Founded in March 2009, AFRA (Association Française du Rail) represents the new entrants on the French rail transport market.


Contact : Jacques MALECOT, AFRA Chief Executive.