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British, French Strikes Snarl Millions of Commuters, Tourists


Workers have gone on strike in Britain and France to voice mounting discontent over proposed government austerity measures.

The strikes, launched Monday, have disrupted travel services for millions of commuters and tourists in London and Paris and closed down many schools.

British transit workers are protesting plans to cut 800 subway workers, saying the cuts would affect public safety in a subway system that normally serves 3 million riders daily.

In France, unions are striking to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to raise the retirement age from age 60 to 62. Mr. Sarkozy has insisted the move is necessary to balance pension accounts and help reduce the country's ballooning deficit.

The strikes came as European Union finance ministers met in Brussels for talks on a continent-wide debt crisis that rattled financial markets worldwide earlier this year.

The French strike coincides with the start of parliamentary debate on ways to make the money-losing French pension system solvent by 2018. Unions are trying to mobilize 2 million street protesters for some 200 demonstrations across the country.

The labor unrest in London and Paris follows similar protests earlier this year in Greece, Spain, Italy and Romania. Those strikes were also called to protest public spending cuts.

Sarkozy's government has said it will not back down on the pension bill's key principles such as raising the retirement age, but that it might consider concessions on secondary issues.

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

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