Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 18:41 UK

Pensions protests strike France

A man takes part in a strike in Lyon, eastern France
Unions say they are planning further strike action

Members of French public sector unions have gone on strike, protesting against government plans to reform pensions and the 35-hour working week.

Teachers, rail workers and bus drivers took part in marches in Paris, Nice, Lyon and Marseille.

But labour unions admitted that turnout was less than last month's strike.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet is due to discuss the latest attempt to encourage longer hours during a meeting on Wednesday.

Under the proposed changes, companies will be able to negotiate contracts with employees that side-step the 35-hour limit.


"The government is making the wrong choice. Messing with the 35-hour week is an unacceptable challenge to our social rights," Myriam Carasco, a secondary schoolteacher in Marseille told Reuters.

Two French unions - CGT and CFDT - had called for the demonstrations against plans to make employees work an extra year before being entitled to a full state pension.

The strikes caused minimal disruption to train services, and closed some day-care centres and school cafeterias but turnout was lower than the unions had hoped for.

Last month, hundreds of thousands flooded the streets of some 130 cities across France, and caused major disruption to the transport network.

According to government figures, less than 3% of public sector workers were on strike by noon on Tuesday.

Analysts say the decreased number of strikers could bolster Mr Sarkozy's determination to push forward with reforms.

Mr Sarkozy says the current pension system is unsustainable and changes are needed to bring French state pensions into line with those in other EU countries.

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