A glimmer of hope has emerged of a swift end to a strike by transport unions in France. As the stoppage got underway today, crippling bus, metro and tram services in Paris and train services nationwide, there were signs of progress in negotiations. Pension reform is the thorny issue on the table.
Bernard Thibault, who leads the big CGT union, had previously rejected talks on a company by company basis with management and state representatives. Now he is willing to go down that path. The government has also agreed. President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to cut back on generous public sector pensions by bringing them in line with those of other workers.
The open-ended industrial action is the biggest challenge he has faced since his election in May. Previous attempts to shake up the system have failed amid strikes and street protests. But, buoyed by public opinion, Sarkozy has pledegd to stand firm – confident he can win this battle of wills.