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French Unions Launch One-Day Strike Over Pay, Job Cuts

Tens of thousands of French teachers, hospital staff and other public sector workers marched Thursday in cities across France, joining a one-day strike against government reform plans.

Turnout estimates for Thursday's protests varied widely. The French news agency quotes the country's largest union as saying 400,000 strikers participated nationwide. Police estimates put the number at about half that figure.

Unions representing more than five million French workers organized the walkouts to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's announced plans to streamline the public sector by not replacing half of all retiring civil servants.

Union officials said they were hoping to repeat the show of force of November 20, when one-third of the country's public employees walked off the job and some 700,000 people joined in protest rallies across the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.