Mass strike against pension reform hits France

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A mass strike against the French government's plan to raise the retirement age disrupted transport and closed schools on Thursday, with unions hoping to get millions of protestors into the streets.

Transport authorities said about one in two mainline trains were running in and out of Paris, with three in four Paris metro trains operating.

The DGAC airport authority said 15 percent of flights would have to be cancelled between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (0500 and 1200 GMT).

One in two teachers was expected to go on strike, the teachers' union SNUipp-FSU said, and some schools closed their doors to pupils, according to media reports.

Radio stations such as all-news France Info played music to fill the gaps in their programming left by striking staff.

The government last week unveiled proposals to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 amid efforts to cut France's big budget deficit. The National Assembly is to vote on the proposal in September.

Leaders from some of the six unions that jointly called the strike said they planned big street demonstrations throughout France later in the day.

"The hope was to get more than a million protestors. I think this figure will be exceeded, that's for sure," said Francois Chereque, leader of the CFDT union, adding that he thought "perhaps two million" was possible.

"We have more than 200 rallies all across France and we're hearing from the ground that there is an exceptional turnout," he added, speaking on RTL radio.

"Employees are realising that this reform is unjust."

© 2010 AFP

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