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France hit by widespread strikes

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France hit by widespread strikes

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Hundreds of thousands of French workers staged strikes today in protest at the effects of the economic crisis and the government’s handling of it.

Scenes of protest in central Paris were repeated in 200 towns and cities across France. This is the second series of major walkouts in as many months. The demonstrators claim the French government led by Nicholas Sarkozy is not doing enough to help the needy. Bernard Thibault of the CGT union said: “More and more workers are starting to feel we are not the ones responsible for this crisis, but we are the victims, with job losses, wage reductions and pressure on working conditions. We are asking the government and industry bosses to review the acts and decisions which they have been making over the years.” French Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon said: “We have a crisis as in any other country, except that we have a President who aggravates the crisis by making the wrong economic and social choices.” The national rail operator, SNCF, cancelled 40% of high-speed trains and half of regional services. Passengers though seemed to have some sympathy for the strikers. A third of flights out of Paris’s Orly airport were cancelled, while a tenth of France’s electricity output has been shut down with workers on strike. Among union demands: an increase in the minumum wage and a halt to public sector job cuts.