French workers strike over Sarkozy’s economic policies

March 19th, 2009 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Paris, March 19 (DPA) French workers from the public and private sectors went on strike Thursday to protest the economic policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The second national anti-government job action this year will be accompanied by protest demonstrations in more than 210 cities and towns, trade union officials said.

The strike actually began late Wednesday when employees of the national rail network SNCF and the French oil giant Total walked off their jobs.

The SNCF said that only about half of all scheduled long-distance and regional trains on average were operating.

In addition, public transport in numerous cities was disrupted to varying degrees. However, bus and metro service in Paris was near normal, while air traffic was only slightly affected.

Most schools were expected to shut down Thursday, as unions said that up to 60 percent of all primary and secondary school teachers would be striking.

One reason transportation has not been disrupted more is that French trade unions wanted to enable protesters to travel more easily to the demonstrations accompanying the strikes.

During this year’s first national job action, Jan 29, some 2.5 million people took to the streets, according to trade union figures.

The scale of those demonstrations impressed Sarkozy, who shortly thereafter announced aid in the form of tax relief and other measures for low-income families worth 2.6 billion euros.

There will be no such response this time, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said, noting that because of its bailout packages for the French banking and automobile sectors the government could not afford to incur any more debt.

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