European rail workers protest over market moves

PARIS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Thousands of rail workers from across Europe demonstrated in Paris on Thursday against plans to open up rail networks to outside competition, organisers said. Union officials said more than 20,000 took part, carrying banners in English, French and German reading “Stop liberalisation”.

“We have experienced now in Britain full-scale privatisation of railways -- infrastructure, trains and maintenance -- with disastrous results for safety and the quality of service to the public,” said Alex Gordon, an official from Britain’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

“We’re here to tell the people of France and Germany and other European countries that are now being threatened with these same policies: don’t make the same mistake that the British made,” he said.

Germany shelved plans for a partial listing of national rail operator Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL] last month because of the turmoil on financial markets.

The head of France’s powerful CGT union, Bernard Thibault, said the crisis had shown the limits of the markets.

“We have a president of the republic who said a few days ago we have to draw the lessons from the global financial crisis and that not everything can be run according to the rules of the market. That’s certainly true of public transport,” he said. As well as delegations from Belgium, Germany, Austria, Britain, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg and Italy, six French rail unions took part in the march.

The European day of action followed a French strike last week over moves to change working hours rules for freight rail workers. Two unions have filed notice of another strike on the same issue on Nov 19. (Reporting by Gerard Bon and Lucien Libert; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Roche)