France in turmoil as nationwide strike over pension reform stretches on

Thursday, October 21, 2010
By Paul Martin

By Edward Cody
Washington Post.com
Thursday, October 21, 2010

PARIS – Unions vowed that their striking workers would keep disrupting rail and road transportation. Teenagers marched through the streets and pledged to go on boycotting their schools. The government, trying to appear unfazed, urged Parliament to ignore the chaos and speed up the vote on a bitterly contested pension reform.

France remained stuck Thursday in what has become a major test of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative presidency – the turmoil caused by a nationwide strike and protest movement that has maintained its momentum well into a second month.

Sarkozy’s aides predicted the unrest would soon peter out, particularly as a 10-day school break begins this weekend. Given the government’s majority in both houses of Parliament, they added, final passage of the reform law is assured early next week, in any case. Nevertheless, the major labor unions scheduled two more nationwide strikes and demonstrations, for Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, voicing the hope that by pressing on with the campaign they could force Sarkozy to pull back the bill and start over.

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