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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 11:44 GMT
Teachers join French strike wave
Protester at a station in Marseille
Striking workers are to stage several marches on Thursday
Teachers and civil servants have gone on strike in France, on the third day of protests over salaries and job cuts in the public sector.

Trade unions urged five million state employees to stop work in schools, hospitals and government offices.

Train services were returning to normal on Thursday after a day of disruption.

The conservative government of the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, insists it will not back down from its programme of economic reforms.

Some schools were expected to close as a result of Thursday's strike.

Government targets

French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard said the state authorities "must hear what the strikers want to say, but the people on strike must hear what the country wants and heed the necessity to modernise".
Paris station
Trains were severely disrupted on Wednesday

The government is aiming for 2.5% growth in 2005 and wants to cut unemployment from 9.9% to about 9%. It is trying to curb public spending and keep the budget deficit within the limits set by the EU.

Trade unions said support for the strike action on Wednesday was more widespread than on the first day, Tuesday, when postal workers stopped work.

Action by rail workers widely disrupted commuter services in Paris and left only one-in-three high speed trains running.

Gas and electricity workers marched in the capital, while surgeons in many hospitals across France refused to perform non-emergency operations.

The unions are demanding higher wages and an end to moves to relax the 35-hour working week.

An opinion poll on Tuesday showed 65% of people supporting the protest movement.

The unions say the public mood is shifting against the government's economic liberalisation policies.

A further day of action is planned for 5 February.

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