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Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 03:07 GMT
French protest enters sixth day
Crowds on platform at Paris Gare du Nord metro station
There are severe delays on the Paris metro system
A French transport strike is continuing into a second week, despite some signs of a movement towards negotiations.

Six out of seven unions agreed to extend the walk-out to Monday, though more services are expected to run than at the beginning of the strike.

The number of strikers has reportedly been dropping since the strike began last Tuesday.

And unions have agreed to attend negotiations with the state rail company management on Wednesday.

"It has been agreed that the union federations will go there, bringing a joint platform of demands," said Didier Le Reste, head of the railway workers' section of the CGT union.

But the government has said it would not enter talks unless strikers return to work.

The strike is seen as a key test of President Nicolas Sarkozy's efforts to reform the French economy.

On Monday around 300 TGV high-speed trains out of 700 and 40% of buses were set to run. One in five trains on the Paris Metro were scheduled to operate.

Pension privileges

Union leaders are hoping to keep the transport strike going until Tuesday, when separate strikes are planned by civil servants, lawyers and magistrates.

Benefits 1.6m workers, including 1.1m retirees
Applies in 16 sectors, of which rail and utilities employees make up 360,000 people
Account for 6% of total state pension payments
Shortfall costs state 5bn euros (3.5bn; $6.9bn) a year
Some workers can retire on full pensions aged 50
Awarded to Paris Opera House workers in 1698 by Louis XIV

The strike, which began on Tuesday night, was triggered by plans to scrap "special" pensions privileges enjoyed by 500,000 workers, mainly in the rail and energy sectors, as well as by 1.1 million pensioners.

The French government last tried to overhaul "special" pensions in 1995. The move sparked three weeks of strikes that forced then-President Jacques Chirac to climb down.

But the polls have so far broadly supported Mr Sarkozy, who says France can no longer afford to let some public sector employees retire on a full pension as early as 50.

On Sunday thousands turned out for an anti-strike protest in Paris.

"The strikers are privileged people compared to the rest of the population. ... They have been holding back the country for the last 30 years," one demonstrator told France-Info radio.

However, one poll conducted during the first two days of the strike suggested confidence in Sarkozy had fallen by five points in a month.

The poll for i-Tele/Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui questioned 959 people across France last week.


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