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French Strikers Voting on Whether to End Walkouts

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French commuters are facing further delays, but there were signs of optimism as local chapters of the country's rail unions were voting to suspend their nine-day strike.

Nationwide rail service and Paris local transport faced continued disruptions. But rail officials say workers at 42 of 45 union meetings held Thursday voted to suspend the walkout following Wednesday's start of negotiations and a management offer of pay increases and bonus payments.

The protests reached their peak Tuesday when civil servants staged a one-day strike over pay and job cuts.

The French rail workers began their strike last week against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to reform the state pension system.

The rail workers' protests focused on Mr. Sarkozy's plans to cut retirement benefits that allow some transit and safety workers to retire after 37-and-a-half years service compared to the 40 years required of all others.

Analysts have called the strikes a catastrophe that cost the French economy about $400 million a day.

Strikes in 1995 forced then-President Jacques Chirac to back down from reform plans.

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

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