Thursday, October 25, 2012

SNCF Grève / Public Transportation Strike

The SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français), the national rail service in France, is having a planned strike today. Fortunately, I only use the Paris public transportation (metros, buses), which is a different system not affected by this strike.

In principle I generally do not agree with protests (whether strikes, manifestations, or something else), especially when the grievances are hardly grievous. There is a qualitative difference (okay, an enormous qualitative difference) between SNCF people going on strike because they want better wages and benefits and 19th-century French miners going on strike because they didn't earn enough to even feed their families and because they worked in conditions that were actively killing them.

This qualitative difference is obvious in the half-hearted manner of today's strike. If a protest's demands are truly just, then the protest shouldn't care about those affected, right? But the SNCF has been very careful to alert passengers to schedule changes and propose alternatives to travel interruptions. So why have a strike? And if you are going to have a strike, even if your demands are just, why would you be unjust to others (in this case, passengers) who have no say in the matter? The ethics of strikes, and protests in general, are fascinating.


  1. Train strikes are especially *endearing* in France when you're there with a group of students in a city that's neither your point of departure nor your destination, planning to change trains, and you all have reservations you made months ago for a train that doesn't arrive in the station.

    At that point, where do you go? What do you do to creatively feed and house 15 people in a place where you're not really intending to be, all because of "une grève"?

    Makes for great (or maybe not-so-great) tourist memories....

  2. That sounds positively awful. And of course, there's no customer service, or at least not any that would give you your money back and put you up in a hotel! I bet you have a lot of those stories.