• 01:19
  • Thursday ,14 October 2010

French strike enters second day


International News


Thursday ,14 October 2010

French strike enters second day

Paris, France (CNN) -- French unions were holding a second straight day of strikes Wednesday, a day after more than a million people walked out to protest government pension reforms.

Tuesday's demonstrations were the biggest yet in a series of rolling strikes against the reforms -- specifically, plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
The Ministry of the Interior said as many as 1.2 million people walked out of work, while unions put the figure at 3.5 million.
There were about 250 demonstrations across the country, the government said.
About 89,000 people took to the streets of the capital Paris, police said, while unions said it was 330,000.
Either way, the numbers are bigger than the last protest in Paris, which police estimated to be 65,000 marchers.
Vehicle traffic on the streets of Paris seemed to flow as normal and businesses were open, but more disruption loomed.
Unions have said this strike -- the fourth in the past month -- is open-ended, and that workers will vote each day whether to continue the strike the following day. Previous strikes have lasted for a 24-hour period.
Paris transport workers voted to strike again Wednesday, which will affect the Paris Metro, buses and regional RER trains. Rail workers also said they will stay off the job Wednesday.
The current strike also includes, for the first time, workers in French refineries -- which raises the specter of fuel and gas shortages if the strikes continue.
About a quarter of education workers were on strike, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday -- very slightly below the percentage who walked off the job September 23. Just over 14 percent of public hospital workers took to the picket lines, slightly higher than last month.
Raising the retirement age is a key part of the government's pension reform plans, currently in the hands of the Senate after passing the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament. The Senate may vote on the full spate of reforms by the end of the week.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has a majority in both houses of Parliament, meaning the measures are expected to pass.
Nearly 70 percent of the French public back the unions standing up to the reforms, according to polls published in French newspapers Sunday.