France's commuters fight back

France's commuters fight back
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As what could prove to be the biggest strike for years gets underway in France, those most likely to be affected are fighting back. Train drivers protesting against government pension reform may be joined by gas and electricity workers later today. The national rail network and public transport will be severely disrupted, and many commuters are at the end of their tether.

“I have had enough of this. They take all of us hostage and do what they want. After all, we’re the ones paying their salaries. This is going too far,” said one woman as she jumped on the last train from Paris’ St Lazare station.

“I am really fed up with this. I’m not behind them any more. I don’t agree with what they are doing. I wish I could retire at 54 or 55, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” added another passenger.

But not everyone was unsympathetic: “I think they have a point,” said one man. “I would do the same thing in their shoes. They were told they would be able to retire at 50 and then the government says to them ‘no, you have to work longer’. They’ve paid into the system and now it should pay out for them.”

On the political front, it is a question of who gives in first: President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has vowed to reform the pension system, or the powerful trade unions who are against the plans to eliminate special rules allowing some members to retire early.

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