The start of the 2022 school year was marked by a series of measures to “adjust transport plans” – in other words, a relaxation of frequencies – almost everywhere in France.

In Bordeaux, for example, TBM was forced to reduce the frequency of its buses and trams for a week in early September due to a lack of drivers.

The situation was temporarily resolved thanks to the use of temporary workers, overtime and the mobilization of non-driver employees with the necessary permit.

But Pierrick Poirier, managing director of Keolis Bordeaux (SNCF group), which operates the network, says he is still looking for 30 drivers by the end of the year.

In Pau, the “chronic understaffing” denounced by the unions provoked a widely followed strike on September 1 with 85% strikers. “We went not far from the total non-circulation of buses,” said Philippe Castagno, of the CGT.

In the Paris region, no strike but trains canceled on certain lines, such as the RER C and D, operated by the SNCF, always for the same reasons.

– Low pay –

There is currently a lack of “about fifty new drivers” of SNCF trains in Ile-de-France (out of 2,650) and “less than a hundred” in the TER (out of 5,500), i.e. “about 1% of the number of drivers in the plan national”, according to a spokesperson for SNCF Voyageurs.

According to him, “this has no consequences of more than 4% on the transport plan of the line most affected by this tension on the workforce”.

But unions like Sud-Rail explain these disturbances above all by “the low level of remuneration offered by the SNCF”.

According to its federal secretary, Erik Meyer, between 40 and 50 trains were canceled every day in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes until August 15, due to lack of staff and in Hauts-de-France, the region had to stop its payments to the SNCF due to too many train cancellations. In addition to drivers, Meyer estimates there are 300 maintenance personnel and 800 signalmen across the country short.

At the RATP, the problems mainly concern the surface network where there is a lack of between 1,500 and 1,800 bus drivers, according to Unsa but half as many according to management.

“Today, we run on average at 20% uninsured service on the network. This represents 800 to 1,000 services per day”, worries Arole Lamasse, secretary general of Unsa-RATP.

In buses in the Paris region, new banners “we are recruiting drivers” parade daily.

But at the SNCF as at the RATP, the unions criticize the end of hiring status, responsible for this disenchantment according to them.

Because if the wages remain the same, the advantages, early retirement or guarantee of employment, have disappeared.

For SNCF recruitment policy manager Catherine Woronoff, “the end of the status is not a brake, it is above all the labor market that has changed”.

“The Covid period with confinements and distancing has greatly disrupted the life of all companies over the past two years”, explains an SNCF spokesperson.

As a result, the latter compete in innovation to attract candidates. Transdev – which operates the networks of many cities including Nantes, Rouen and Montpellier – is looking for 800 drivers by the end of 2022, beginning of 2023, for example deploying a bus for itinerant employment.

“It is equipped with a driving simulator to meet the inhabitants in the heart of their place of life, to promote the profession of driver and to encourage new vocations”, explains the operator, a subsidiary of the Caisse des dépôts.

The RATP offers a bonus of 150 euros to agents who bring a candidate if he is recruited.

The bonus is even doubled if the interested party remains in the company for more than a year.

There remains a difficulty: “not (…) recruit to recruit”, insists the director general of public transport in Cholet, Marc Delayer. “We must maintain a maximum quality of recruitment”, he says.