Workers on strike in Toulouse, France

People hold a sign reading 'Let's stop going round and round: general strike' on May 27, 2010 in Toulouse, southern France, during a nationwide day strike called by unions to protest against the pension overhaul. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

By David Gura

There are strikes across France today, slowing traffic, disrupting flights and schools, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports. Many workers have walked off the job today to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to reform the country's pension system.

According to the Associated Press, "striking train drivers reduced commuter traffic around Paris, although international train routes did not appear to be affected."

Aviation authorities expected flights at Paris' Charles de Gaulle to be reduced by 10 percent and those at Orly airport by 30 percent because of the strikes. About 14 percent of teachers nationwide were on strike, and about 8 percent of hospital workers.

Because there aren't enough journalists available to deliver news bulletins, the main public radio news channel is Paris is playing pop music intermittently.

In 1984, the retirement age for state pensions was reduced from 65 to 60 by President Francois Mitterand. According to Beadsley, the Left says it will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve what it considers a key social gain.

Sarkozy says state workers must put in longer hours if they hope to preserve the country's retirement system.

As part of budget-cutting measures, Spain and Germany have raised their retirement age recently.

"France's retirement plans pale before the harsh austerity measures instituted by other European nations, including Greece, Ireland and Portugal," the Associated Press says. "Spain and Italy have also announced recent austerity plans as a debt crisis that started in Greece has weakened the euro and raised questions about the future of currency shared by 16 nations."

categories: Foreign News

10:30 - May 27, 2010