Transforming the Sncf – French State-Owned Company : From Historical Unilateral Model to Multipartite Enterprise

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 423
Oral Presentation
Dominique ANDOLFATTO , Faculté de droit et science politique / Credespo, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
Marnix DRESSEN , Université Versailles, Guyancourt Cedex, France
Jean FINEZ , University of Lille 1, CLERSE-CNRS, France
Since 1970s, the French railway sector has undergone massive changes. The European institutions have demanded the opening of the rail transport market.  The sector also faced competition by other means of transportation (especially trucks).

In this context, SNCF (the national state-owned railway company) endeavoured to adapt itself to policy reforms and the competitive environment. The company partially replaced its former model of development (based on public service à la française, i.e. offering low-price tickets and committed to egalitarianism) with a new model, identical to that of private companies. The new model transformed the internal functioning of the company (type of employment contract, pay scale, and nature of industrial relations) as well as market strategies (economic model, pricing strategy).

Changes introduced by the SNCF top management encountered resistance from employees, trade unions, transport users associations and some high-rank transport officials. The struggle between all these actors resulted into a hybrid organization of the railway sector. By now, each activity of the SNCF works autonomously: the various divisions of the company develop their own work modalities and have their proper representations etc.

What is the nature of this new heterogeneous organizational model ? How does national railway company, which transformed after structural improvements, strategic realignment of networks and product offerings, internationalization, and efficiency improvements, adapted to structural shifts and uncertain economic and legal context ? Which divisions of the company are the most affected by change ?

This paper will attempt to answer these questions, by examining the deconstruction of an old organizational model and its transition and transformation into new one. Our focus, while analyzing the structural shifts, will be on the description of internal conflicts and representational gaps among different SNCF stakehodlers and their effects on the functioning of the company.