Anti-austerity strikes disrupt public services

Large parts of the French public sector, including transport lines in and out of Paris, were severely affected by industrial action on Tuesday in protest of the government’s austerity measures.


French transport workers and big business employees went on strike Tuesday in protest against government austerity measures.

More than 200 demonstrations were planned in cities across France.

In Paris the main RER local railway lines A (east-west) and B (north-south, including access to and from Charles de Gaulle Airport) were severely affected.

The capital’s metro, bus and tram systems operated normally, as well as three in every four high-speed intercity TGV trains.

Strikes were also planned at energy giants EDF and GDF-Suez, as well as at national manufacturers Renault, Airbus and Perrier.

The industrial action comes as the Fench government aims to reduce the public deficit from 5.7 per cent of GDP this year to 4.5 per cent next year and to the European Union limit of 3 per cent by 2013.

In August, French Prime Minsiter Fillon unveiled a €12-billion deficit-cutting package that raised taxes on the rich and closed tax loopholes, in order to maintain the country’s AAA credit rating.

Tuesday’s strike was coordinated by five trade unions who say they want to give a unified voice to a broad rejection of the French government’s austerity measures.

Bernard Thibault, head of the powerful CGT union, said: “The national motto is ‘No to Austerity’.”

The unions protest a planned doubling of tax on employees’ health insurance and demand that overtime would become tax free and spending power would be increased in the face of price rises.

The unions are also calling for new taxes on financial transactions and an end to civil service redundancies.

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