French rail workers open nationwide protest against pension reform
Earth Times: 5th September 2010
French railway workers went on strike late Monday, initiating a day of nationwide protest against the pension reform proposals of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
All scheduled night trains, domestic and international, have been canceled ahead of a day during which transportation throughout the country will be severely disrupted.
The national railway network SNCF said that fewer that half of all scheduled high-speed TGV trains will be operating Tuesday, and as few as one in four regional trains.
International train schedules are also expected to be perturbed, with only one of two scheduled trains to Germany expected to be running, and no trains at all to Spain and Italy.
Most Paris metro lines will also be badly disrupted, with about one of three trains running Tuesday.
In addition, the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) has asked airlines to suspend 25 per cent of their flights originating at Paris's two major airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly.
Most classrooms throughout the country are expected to be shut in protest against the pension reform proposal, which calls for gradually raising the age of retirement from 60 to 62 by the year 2018.
The strikes will be accompanied by street protests in hundreds of cities and towns throughout France, with trade unions hoping that at least 2 million people will demonstrate Tuesday.
Recent polls have shown that some 70 per cent of the French people support the protests.
However, regardless of the scale of the strikes and protests, Sarkozy is expected to remain firm in what he regards as the watershed reform of his presidency.
According to French media reports, the only concessions the government is prepared to make is enlarging the list of professions that will be exempt from the reform because of their effect on the health of workers.