Transport disruptions expected as French protest pension reforms
Disruptions are expected Thursday as rail and public sector workers stage one-day protests against planned government pension reforms.22 May 2008
PARIS - Demonstrations and travel disruptions were expected across France Thursday as rail and public sector workers stage one-day protests against planned government pension reforms.
Some 80 demonstrations were scheduled to take place, with France's five main labour unions expecting hundreds of thousands of people to turn up against plans to increase the number of years needed to draw a full pension.
France's SNCF rail operator said on average one train in two was in service across the country, with two out of three high-speed TGV trains running.
No disruptions were expected to the high-speed Eurostar to London or the Thalys trains to Brussels and Amsterdam, the companies said.
The Paris metro operator RATP said service was normal except for the RER B regional line that links the city with Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, where one in two trains was operating.
Disruptions to air travel were also possible, particularly in the morning and in the southern city of Marseille.
Traffic on the highways into Paris was no heavier than normal at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), the national highway information service CNIR said.
France’s five main unions expected very strong participation in the protests, by both private and public sector workers, despite no formal strike call having been made.
The unions hope a strong showing will induce President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to listen to their concerns regarding plans to increase to 41 years the contribution period to receive a full pension.
Thursday's demonstrations unfolded as French fishermen decry high fuel prices with protests that have crippled cross-Channel ferry traffic.
One of the fishermen's leaders called Wednesday for an end to the protests after the government promised to release this year EUR 110 million from a promised EUR 310 million package.
Hundreds of ferry passengers and vehicles have been held up on either side of the Channel coast as fishermen formed blocked Calais, Dieppe, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Malo.
[AFP / Expatica]