* SNCF plans 36 strike days over three months
* Macron remains determined to overhaul state company
* French president to give series of TV interviews this week
PARIS, April 9 (Reuters) - France’s state railways have lost around 100 million euros ($123 million) since a series of strikes began on April 3, the chairman of the SNCF rail service said on Monday, as a third wave of stoppages slashed services.
Labour unions show no sign of faltering in their test of President Emmanuel Macron’s resolve to shake up the domestic rail monopoly and deliver a raft of reforms he says are vital to economic modernisation.
Guillaume Pepy, the chief of SNCF, denounced the stoppages, which cut the number of high-speed TGV trains on Monday to one in five.
Service fell to a third of normal in the Paris region, where two million commuters rely on trains each day. Three in four international trains were operating.
“The right to strike exists,” Pepy told BFM TV. “But so does the right to transport.”
He defended a shakeup that Macron’s government says is vital to SNCF’s survival once the domestic rail network is opened to competition under an EU-wide accord.
Pepy said rail freight had already been liberalised, and SNCF’s freight business had shrunk by a third since then because it lacked reforms to prepare for it. The same risked happening with rail liberalisation, he said.
All unions back the strike, which are set to run until the end of June, with two days of strikes every five days. There was also a day of disruption on March 22, when railworkers joined a strike by civil servants.
While unions are behind the action, there are deep differences between the Communist-rooted CGT, which objects in principle to the government reforms, and the moderate CFDT, which opposes the way the government is going about it.
CGT head Philippe Martinez said nothing technically obliged Macron to end the SNCF monopoly.
CFDT head Laurent Berger, whose differences with the CGT are regarded as Macron’s best hope for a way out, demanded that the government do more to put a new collective agreement in place for the entire rail sector.
The government wants to ditch a system whereby SNCF-specific contracts offer job-for-life status and perks such as automatic annual pay rises. Berger said it was inconceivable to do so without a new collective agreement for the sector.
Macron will have an opportunity to address the industrial stand-off in TV interviews over the coming days, one on Thursday and a second round on Sunday.
Polls show majority support for the reform but demand also for the government to accept some of the unions’ demands.
An online petitihere set up to raise public funds to support the strikers has so far raised 534,000 euros. (Reporting By Brian Love; editing by Luke Baker, Larry King)