French Pensions Strike!

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THE French transport workers’ strike against pension cuts yesterday caused huge stoppages on TGV fast rail routes, local train, metro and bus services.

Only 90 out of 700 TGV fast trains were running and rail links to Paris’ airports were practically non-existent.

With gas and electricity workers also taking part, power cuts were not ruled out.

By 08.15 there were an estimated 300 kilometres of traffic jams in the Paris region as people took to their cars to get to work.

Also taking part in the strike are the workers and artists of the Paris Opera and the Comedie Francaise whose pensions are also under attack.

With a whole range of social discontent beginning to come together, the Sarkozy regime is under increasing pressure.

Meanwhile, Bernard Thibault, secretary general of the CGT, on Tuesday engaged in two hours of talks with Xavier Bertrand, the Minister of Labour.

Bertrand said that the CGT trade union federation wanted tripartite talks between the employers, unions and state representatives to begin negotiations on the reform of the special pension regimes.

Prime minister François Fillon ordered the Minister of Labour to immediately get the other unions in to see him to discuss the CGT suggestions.

However, the SNCF unions gave notice of an open-ended strike and rail workers are looking forward to November 20, when a separate strike by civil servants against state sector job cuts is planned.

Meanwhile, Paris Nanterre University students were attacked by CRS, Garde Mobile and Gendarmerie on Tuesday morning.

Militant students were blockading an entrance when the university authorities called for state forces to clear them away. The students were dispersed following the use of truncheons and CS spray.

The same day a general assembly of Sorbonne students voted for a blockage but found that police had already been called to take control of the entrances.

All over France, a struggle is taking place on university campuses to find ways of stopping a government law which is intended to give universities power to act as independent organisations with a pro-business orientation.

So far some twenty out of eighty-five universities are undergoing full or partial occupation.

On Tuesday night an impromptu demonstration of about two hundred students and youth set off to the Gare d’Austerlitz to support the railworkers.

A contingent of CRS riot police was waiting for them and stopped them entering the station.

The youth departed chanting, ‘Police everywhere! Justice nowhere!’