It was a show of force against Nicolas Sarkozy’s retirement reforms.
Hundreds of thousands have turned out on the streets to protest against plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
Police figures say 1.12 million turned out at numerous rallies nationwide; union leaders say they estimate a figure as high as 2.7 million.
Eric Chenais from the CGT union said: “We do not deny that we need to reform the retirement system, but we believe we need to divide the wealth differently. For example, the government wants 85 per cent of the effort from the workers and 15 per cent from Medef, the employers’ union. That’s unacceptable for us.”
Seven of the countries major unions joined forces for the day of action; people walked off the job as part of the protest, disrupting all forms of public transport.
The strike came on the day the government starts a debate in parliament over the reforms.
One commuter said: “I waited for three metros but they were full, so I decided to take a rental bike. It was interesting to say the least.”
The unions are warning that a further day of protest will be organised if the government does not listen to the demonstrators.