Paris tackles SNCF reform
The Macron government wants to restructure the highly-indebted state-owned French rail company SNCF. The former Air France CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta, whom the government has tasked with the job, presented proposals for the reform last week. Commentators focus on steps aimed at privatisation and liberalisation of the rail sector, as well as the terms of employment for new employees.
Sorely needed modernisation
The proposals are shock therapy but they're nevertheless the right way forward, Le Monde writes approvingly:
“The idea is to reduce the debts to zero (by having the state take them over) so that the company can calmly go about modernising its network. The disruptions of the last few months show how necessary this is. In exchange the SNCF would become a state-owned joint-stock company, putting an end to the current lack of limits on debt. Another explosive measure: the statute of SNCF employees would be changed for new recruits, who would notably be denied employment guarantees and automatic pay rises that bear no relation to economic logic.”
Government shaking the republic's foundations
The reform proposals go too far, Libération counters:
“An end to civil-servant status for employees, the closure or regionalisation of unfprofitable lines, the subsidiarisation of freight transport, the transformation into a public limited company, etc. ... This is not the 'new foundation' promised by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe but simply the liberalisation of the old public service that the technocratic establishment has been dreaming of for so long. ... Of course something must be done. The SNCF is bogged down by debt, the concept of 'high-speed trains everywhere' has sapped resources from 'daily commuter trains'. Certain advantages reserved for employees who have an employment guarantee are debatable. ... However, there's no getting around our mixed feelings. The SNCF is not just a national company. It's a pillar of the French Republic.”