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Workers' Strikes Hit London, France


Strikes taking place across France and London have closed down major transport routes and turned transport links into chaos.

London's Tube workers went on a 24-hour strike starting Monday evening that left commuters struggling to make it to work Tuesday morning.

Buses were diverted from central London because streets were at a standstill. Many people were on foot.

This London worker didn't arrive at work until two in the afternoon.

"Normally it takes me 45 minutes and today it took me five hours," she said. "I think it was totally unnecessary; it should have been avoided rather than costing all the people trouble because there's been a lot of traffic and disruptions all over."

Thousands of workers on London's transport system walked out because they say proposed job cuts will hurt the service and create safety risks.

Bob Crow is leader of transport union RMT. VOA asked him if the strike is successful.

"Very successful," said Crow. "There's been major disruption and I think London Underground know we're serious now about trying to defend our members' interest."

London wasn't the only European city to be hit by workers' strikes on Tuesday. In Paris and across France unions mounted major strikes in protest against planned pension reforms. Train and air travel, as well as schools and hospitals were disrupted by the strikes.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he'll raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, a plan that has met with virulent protest from many French workers. Union leaders said they hoped up to two million people would take to the streets.

Across Europe, 65 is a common retirement age. Germany and Britain have plans to raise that threshold to 67 or beyond.

British Union leader Crow says workers across Europe are fighting for their rights.

"Workers in France are fighting back, they're fighting back all over the place - Greece, in Ireland, in Portugal, in Spain," added Crow. "And it's quite clear that people are not prepared to be pushed around, they're prepared to stand up and fight."

In London, the strike was set to carry on into the evening. Tuesday afternoon, one worker said she was dreading the commute home.

"When it's cold and wet I don't think I'm going to like walking very much, so yeah, it will probably annoy me a lot more then. And I'm dreading trying to get home tonight," she explained.

London's Tube workers have more strikes planned for October and November.

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