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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 10:58 GMT
French air strikers return to posts
Paris march
The Paris protest attracted tens of thousands
French air traffic controllers returned to work on Wednesday morning, ending a strike which had crippled flights since Monday evening.

Thousands of flights were hit as the controllers walked out in sympathy with other public sector workers in a campaign against privatisation, job cuts and pension reform.

Public transport was also hit, but it was air traffic which bore the brunt of the disruption.

In Paris, around 80% of flights were cancelled at the two main airports, and Strasbourg and Nice were also affected.


This is more than just a warning to the government - it must think again

Bernard Thibault
CGT union
All flights were cancelled at smaller airports including Montpellier, Beziers, Nimes, Perpignan, Carcassonne, Lille-Lesquin, Bale-Mulhouse et Metz-Nancy-Lorraine.

Many foreign flights using French airspace were also disrupted.

Union leaders hailed the success of the day of action, which also drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Paris for a mass march and rally.

"This shows the discontent. This is more than just a warning to the government. It must think again," said Bernard Thibault of the giant CGT trade union.

Nice airport departure board
Thousands of flights were cancelled
The Paris protests were led by thousands of rail workers, joined by teachers, hospital staff, postal workers, telecommunications staff and other transport workers.

Demonstrations also took part in other towns and cities, including Toulouse and Marseille in the south, and Rennes and Caen in the north.

The protests, and a separate campaign of road blockades by lorry drivers, were seen as the first big test for the right-wing government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whose party ousted the socialists earlier this year.

His swift clampdown on Monday's road blockades was praised by analysts and sections of the French media, after apparently heading off lengthy nationwide disruption of the kind seen in previous years.

Other observers said the public sector dispute which sparked Tuesday's day of action might prove harder to crack.

The government is determined to press ahead with its reforms, which it hopes will help cut its budget deficit.

Employment Minister Francois Fillon told parliament on Tuesday that France had to accept its "demographic shock", that there were not enough younger workers to keep funding the growing army of pensioners without reform.

See also:

26 Nov 02 | Europe
26 Nov 02 | Europe
26 Nov 02 | Business
22 Nov 02 | Business
05 Sep 00 | Europe
01 Sep 00 | Europe
13 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
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