Transit Strike Cripples France

Unions seek exit from huge work action
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2007 10:19 AM CST
Stranded commuters check information on the strike at the Saint Lazare train station in Paris, Wednesday Nov. 14, 2007. Striking transport workers slowed France to a crawl as unions and the government...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – In France, the biggest strike since Nicolas Sarkozy's election paralyzed transportation services from national rail to the Paris metro today. Massive traffic jams, long waits for the few subway trains running, and fleets of bicycles were in evidence in the first day of what is seen as a critical showdown between Sarkozy and the public unions whose early-retirement privileges he wants to trim.

The strike is deeply unpopular, and even the opposition Socialists have called on workers to return to their jobs. On the line are Sarkozy's larger plans to stimulate the nation's economy by cutting pension and work-hour entitlements; a similar work stoppage in 1995, which lasted three weeks, forced the government to its knees and ended hopes of such reform under Jacques Chirac.