While this Monday must be held, according to concordant sources, a board of directors to validate the arrival of Jean Castex at the head of the RATP, 20 minutes looks at the construction sites awaiting the new boss of the transport operator.
Remotivate the troops, prevent the flight of employees
It is now well known that the RATP is not in great shape. For months, it has struggled to recruit and even retain its employees, who are fleeing the company. There are several reasons for this, believes Grégoire de Lasteyrie, vice-president of Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), the client of the RATP: “the management trained less during the Covid-19”, and must catch up. In addition, and while the health crisis has also reshuffled the cards from a societal point of view, “some service professions are less attractive”, because you have to get up sometimes very early, work at staggered hours, sometimes on weekends … Finally, working conditions for bus drivers were toughened in August, when working time was increased by 50 minutes a day.
Jean Castex will have to stop the bleeding. As summarized by Fabien Guillaud-Bataille, left-wing adviser to the Ile-de-France region and who sits on the board of directors of IDFM: “Mr. Castex is sent to the helm of a ship in the middle of a storm and which could, if nothing is done quickly, sink. He must see the state in which the ship is left to him. RATP has come under pressure from the law’s privatization and competition objectives. Castex will find this drunk boat. He will have to continue to run buses with people who know they are going to sign private law contracts. This explains a large part of the abandonment of posts and resignations. »
To prevent the debacle, the unions are demanding wage increases. Three hundred euros net per month, for Solidaires RATP, and “return to working conditions before August”. What will Jean Castex do? Will he become the luxury VRP of the RATP, and ask the State for an extension? Or on the contrary, will he be the man in charge of pushing through the reforms? The question worries the unions. “It was he who signed the decrees last summer which destroyed the working conditions of machinists”, points out Jean-Christophe Delprat, Federal Secretary Transport Logistics FO. During his hearing by the Senate on Tuesday, Jean Castex assured that human resources are “the first subject that is on the table” and that he was ready to advance the mandatory annual negotiations.
Restore a transport offer adapted to the needs of Ile-de-France residents
The question of transport supply is directly linked to the previous question: if it is difficult to recruit, it is difficult to increase the rate of buses and metros, especially when Valérie Pécresse just asked “100% return of the offer [d’avant Covid-19] as quickly as possible “. However, the situation is currently very difficult for users. As summarized by David Belliard, elected EELV and deputy mayor of Paris in charge of transport, “we have major difficulties in meeting the expectations of users with enormous waiting times”.
To restore an adapted transport offer, Jean Castex will also need money. Its main funder, IDFM, is in a complicated situation, since the Covid-19 crisis in particular, during which the Ile-de-France residents deserted transport. “We are over-indebted, explains Valérie Pécresse, its president, to 20 minutes. There was the crisis in Ukraine, inflation, and I foolishly electrified all transport to make it greener and I take the price of electricity which doubles. I have no more money. I fight for new recipes. In such a situation, the president of the Ile-de-France region will appreciate having at the head of her main operator a personality capable of helping her find public or private funding.
And Jean Castex appears to be particularly well placed. “He has the necessary weight to obtain the necessary arbitration from Bercy, and we know that financing is the sinews of war”, summarizes Senator Philippe Tabarot, who was rapporteur during his hearing in the Senate. “We expect him to use his authority in the face of Bercy, to loosen the financial straitjacket, and in the face of the demands of IDFM”, adds Bertrand Hammache, general secretary of the CGT-RATP.
Managing the opening up to competition
Finally, the third big project awaiting the next president of the RATP, the elephant in the middle of the room, is the opening up to competition. On the left, there are many who would like Jean Castex to come back to this competition, deemed responsible for all the ills, or at least to put it on hold. “The RATP and IDFM are not ready. And it is not a European obligation, ”says Yohann Rispal, chief of staff of the group of the Ecologist Communist Left and citizen of the regional council. On the right, Grégoire de Lasteyrie believes that “the competition sometimes has a good back” and that it allows the RATP on the contrary “to seek markets in Ile-de-France on which Transdev or Keolis are. The RATP finds its account there too. »
Speculation is rife about what Jean Castex could do. Especially since with its deliberation of October 18, the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP) has reshuffled the cards. It indicates that it “appears necessary, in the context of the implementation of the opening up of public transport to competition in Île-de-France, to regulate the future professional relations of Mr. Castex in order to prevent any risk questioning the independence and neutrality of the administration”. Hence the impossibility of entering into contact, until the expiry of a period of three years, with “members of the government in office who were also members when he was Prime Minister”, as well as with “ the services which were placed under his direct authority. »
Bertrand Hammache, secretary general of the CGT-RATP, sees in it, even if he does not really believe in it, a possible postponement or even cancellation of the opening up to competition because “in this case, the question of the conflict of interests and restrictions of the HATVP no longer arises”. He therefore wonders in fine: “Is Jean Castex coming to the head of the RATP to accelerate the opening to competition or to return to it? »
To untangle all these files, Jean Castex leaves rather with a good a priori, including some of his opponents. “He is a person who has an address book and a good knowledge of the railway company. We are ready to work with him,” says Yohann Rispal without hesitation. “As president of the RATP, I think he will become the lawyer for public transport,” says Valérie Pécresse. And even on the side of the CGT, we let go: “At least we find the State at the head of the RATP, from the prefectural body and not from the major business schools. After a mercenary, we have a servant of the state. »