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strike shuts down Paris
Age, May 14, 2003
Public transport remained disrupted in Paris early today, one day after hundreds of thousands of French workers joined a massive public sector strike to protest the centre-right government's pension reform plans.
protest paralysed much of the country in the biggest show of union muscle
transport ground to a halt, schools and post offices were closed, most
domestic and international flights were cancelled.
interior ministry said about a million people altogether had taken part in
accompanying demonstrations throughout the country.
residents of the capital hoping for a return to normal on Wednesday
morning found metro, bus and suburban rail services again disrupted as
many workers continued the walkout.
rail traffic was also affected Wednesday, but was expected to return to
normal later in the day. The international Eurostar and Thalys trains were
proclaimed Tuesday's strikes an overwhelming triumph and urged the
government to heed the popular opposition. But Social Affairs Minister
Francois Fillon vowed to push ahead with reform and said there was no
alternative but to proceed.
government will not stop in mid-course. Today there are many people
demonstrating but there are many who are not ... and it is the role of
government to determine the general interest," Fillon told the
minister was to meet representatives of the main unions on Wednesday to
discuss minor changes to the pensions bill, which is to go through
parliament in the coming weeks, but he made clear he would not alter the
aim of the law is to preserve the country's "pay-as-you-go"
pensions system which is rapidly going bankrupt as the population ages.
The main provision is the extension of the number of years people will be
required to work to qualify for a full pension.
day of strikes and demonstrations was the biggest challenge yet to the
year-old government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who has till
now successfully defused social unrest by a combination of consultation
strike caused a near total shutdown of the metro system in Paris, and
commuters walked, cycled or skated to work rather than face the ordeal of
a journey by car. Public transport was crippled in around 80 other towns
At airports, air traffic controllers, customs officials and Air France staff joined the strike, causing the cancellation of four out of five flights; regional rail services operated a skeleton service and only one in four TGV fast trains was running; ferries to Corsica and across the English Channel remained in port.