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French rail strike to go on as gov't seeks for talks
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16:35, November 15, 2007

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French rail unions announced late Wednesday to continue a national strike for at least another 24 hours, while the government sought to revive negotiations to solve the stoppages as soon as possible, media reported.

The six rail and four metro unions voted to continue the strike, which has caused widespread disruption in the country.

"So long as there are no new elements, we are for continuing the dispute," said Bernard Thibault, leader of the CGT union.

Workers in the national rail network and the Paris metro shut down the system Thursday in protest against the pension reform plans of President Nicolas. Only a handful of trains ran on Wednesday and Paris's transport system operated reduced services.

About 5,000 strikers demonstrated in Paris. French students, protesting government plans to give universities more autonomy, joined the demonstrations.

Although the traffic gridlock will grip the country another day, there are signs the strike might not drag on too long after unions and government agreed a compromise over negotiating methods.

Late Wednesday, Labour Minister Francois Bertrand agreed to union requests for separate negotiations on a company-by-company basis with a state representative attending.

The powerful CGT union has said it accepted the company-by-company negotiations, backing down from an earlier demand for national talks. Other unions, which met with Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand on Wednesday, said they were also ready for talks.

Several newspapers including left-wing daily Liberation predicted that the strike could end quicker than expected, arguing that it was not in the unions' interests to push too hard.

Polls show that the strike this week is hugely unpopular with the French people and Sarkozy has broad public support for the reform, which aims to lengthen contribution periods for rail workers from 37.5 years to 40.

Source: Xinhua

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