French transport strike tests Sarkozy's reform plans

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French transport strike tests Sarkozy's reform plans

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The French president’s reform policies are facing their first major challenge with a national public transport strike.

Rail unions are angry at his plans to revoke special schemes which will allow around half a million workers in state-controlled companies to retire two and half years earlier than other public and private sector workers.

One striking train driver said: “When you sign up for this job, you know there’s a downside, that is a deplorable family life. But you know you’re retiring at 50, and that’s what the issue is today.”

The government says the schemes cost the public purse about 5-billion euros.

The proposed reforms are intended to make those beneficiaries work longer to amass greater pension contributions.

A government spokesman said: “Working for 40 years instead of 37.5 is not negotiable. It’s vital in terms of funding the pension system, of making sure it has a future, and also of equality between workers.”

90 per cent of mainline train drivers were reported to have stayed away from work, and transport in Paris was severely hit.

Other cities in France reported less severe disruption.