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Strikes Continue to Impact France

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A national transportation strike marked its seventh day in France, Tuesday - even as civil servants took to the streets for a separate one-day strike.  Lisa Bryant has more on the demonstrations from Paris.

Teachers, postal workers, air-traffic controllers and other  civil servants walked off their jobs Tuesday, calling for better salaries and working conditions.  Many French schools were closed;  airports reported flight delays and cancelations;  mail went undelivered;  and, many newspapers were not on sale in kiosks because printers also joined the protesters. A massive march began in Paris Tuesday afternoon,  joining others around the country.

The one-day strike comes as transportation workers around the country  continue to protest against proposed cuts of special pension benefits they have enjoyed for decades.  The proposals are part of a package of reforms the center-right government of President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to push through to help make France more competitive and to reduce public spending.

The number of picketing transportation workers has dwindled since the  strike began a week ago, but traffic remained snarled and public transportation slowed - particularly in the Paris region. The French government says the strike is costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars a day, a point reiterated Tuesday by French budget minister Eric Woerth.

In an interview on France-Inter radio, Woerth said the transportation walkout is costing between $440 million and $586 million, daily, and will have long-term consequences, if it continues.

 The strike has touched a wide array of sectors.  Stores, hotels and  theaters complain of a sharp drop in business and the steel giant ArcelorMittal complains needed supplies traveling by rail remain undelivered.

A number of French universities are also closed, as students protest still other government reforms in the country's higher education. 

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