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French Workers Strike Against Government Policies - 2002-11-26

Tens of thousands of workers have taken to the streets of Paris to protest government policies. Thousands more are on strike throughout France, forcing the cancellation of most air traffic in the country, and affecting hospitals, public utilities, the postal office and other public services.

Police say 30,000 demonstrators gathered in one of the main squares of Paris, then set off through the streets, carrying banners protesting the government's policies.

Employees of the transit, postal and telephone services, all at least partly government-owned, are angry that the right-of-center government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin plans to privatize their industries, reform the country's pension system, and cut spending.

About 80 percent of flights to, from and within France were cancelled because of a strike by air traffic controllers and a job action by Air France employees.

Now that the conservatives control the legislature and the presidency, and have little difficulty enacting legislation, many union members have decided the only effective ways of expressing opposition are street demonstrations and strikes.

The government is taking a tough line with the unions. Its deployment of large numbers of police, and a threat to suspend truckers' licenses, has apparently defeated this week's effort by truck drivers to use blockades to disrupt road traffic.