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French Civil Servants Stage One-Day Strike

Renee Montagne and Eleanor Beardsley discuss the strike in France

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Thousands of civil servants demonstrate Tuesday in Lyon, France, as part of a nationwide strike. The protesters were showing their support for striking transport workers. Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty hide caption

toggle caption Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty

Thousands of civil servants demonstrate Tuesday in Lyon, France, as part of a nationwide strike. The protesters were showing their support for striking transport workers.

Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty

French teachers, postal workers and other public sector employees joined transportation workers on Tuesday in a strike challenging President Nicolas Sarkozy's reforms.

Many of the nation's 5 million civil servants held the day-long strike Tuesday, as transport workers continued with their week-long work stoppage.

Education Ministry officials estimated that more than 300,000 — or nearly 40 percent — of France's teachers stayed off the job, forcing some schools to close.

National newspapers could not be found at kiosks Tuesday as printers and distributors joined the work stoppage. Striking air traffic controllers caused delays averaging 45 minutes at Paris' two airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly.

A small minority of workers at France's two main energy utilities, Electricite de France and Gaz de France, also joined the strike, officials with the companies said.

Tuesday marked the seventh day of transport strikes, which have caused massive disruption on the national rail network and on Paris' Metro and commuter lines.

Train drivers are protesting Sarkozy's plans to extend the number of years they must work before retiring. The government has insisted that for talks to start, more strikers must return to work. It also says that the core of the reform - that all workers will have to work for 40 years to qualify for full pensions - is nonnegotiable.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth told France Inter radio on Tuesday that if they last, those strikes could impact France's economic growth. The government says they are costing the economy between $440 million and $513 million a day.

But the Sarkozy government has stood firm. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Monday that reforms must move forward.

The conservative president, who has often jumped into disputes to sort them out himself, has remained silent about the strike.

Sarkozy was elected in May on promises to reform public sector institutions — from its courts and universities to rail workers, whose special retirement privileges he vowed to erase.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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