French govt offers debt relief in return for SNCF shakeup to end train strike

The French government, hoping to end a train strike, offered on Friday to soak up most of the national SNCF rail company’s debt as long as modernization plans to make the railways more cost-effective are implemented, according to unions. The offer to absorb the bulk of SNCF debt - €35 billion of a total €47 billion ($55 billion)- goes some way to meeting the demands of more moderate unions, Reuters reports. The strike has halved train services for much of the past two months. The offer was announced by the unions after meeting Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. The PM hopes moderate unions involved, primarily the CFDT and Unsa unions, will now pull out of the industrial action. The Unsa union said the debt relief offer showed it was worth negotiating with the government, while the hardline CGT union’s chief rail representative, Laurent Brun, said “the conflict goes on.” The showdown is seen as a test of Emmanuel Macron’s determination to push ahead with a wider agenda of economic reform.