In France, 20% of the TGV high-speed trains are expected to roll on Thursday, 15 November, as compared to only 14% the day before. Regional train and metro drivers will continue their strike, with an average of 25% of trains circulating. The Thalys and Eurostar trains, connecting Paris to London, Brussels and Cologne, will not be concerned by the strike.
Workers in the railroad company SNCF and Paris public transport company RATP, as well as Electricité de France and Gaz de France, are on strike against President Sarkozy's plans to reform special retirement schemes for state-owned and formerly state-owned companies. Under the reform, half a million workers would have to pay social security contributions for 40 years, up 2.5 years from the present rules, in order to be entitled to retirement.
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, 13 November, Sarkozy stressed his will not to give in to workers' demands and "to go to the very end", adding that "nothing can make me give up my objective".
In Germany, the small GDL locomotive drivers' trade union is escalating a long-running conflict with Deutsche Bahn, in which it asks for starting salaries to be raised from the present €1970 to €2500 a month. On 14 November, it started what will be the longest strike in the history of German railroad, moving gradually from a strike in the cargo sector on Wednesday to passenger trains until Saturday morning. GDL, which is strongest in Eastern Germany, may soon be joined by the country's two other railway trade unions, which oppose the government's privatisation plans.
Frank Schmidt, regional GDL chair for North Rhine-Westphalia, said that he expected this week's the strike to have more severe results than last week's. Already on Wednesday, cargo transport by rail broke down throughout Germany, and started to cause problems in the Hamburg seaport and companies relying on just-in-time delivery.
Dieter Hundt, President of the German employers' federation, said that the strikes would "severely hit" key sectors of the economy. Jürgen Thumann, who presides over the association of German industry, said the strike was "without any responsibility".