Sarkozy faces French strike

2010-03-23 13:00

Paris - French teachers, train drivers and civil servants went on strike on Tuesday, stepping up pressure on President Nicholas Sarkozy after his government reshuffle in response to a stinging regional election defeat.

Most of France's unions joined forces to organise strikes in dozens of cities to protest unemployment, wages, the high cost of living - and plans to change the pension system, the government's next major reform project.

Teachers walked out in protest at job cuts and the government's education reforms.

Staff in several ministries and court buildings were also called to strike - disrupting some legal proceedings - complaining of under-staffing.

Transport disrupted

And striking transport workers disrupted regional rail services, commuter lines and parts of the Paris metro system.

Sarkozy's cabinet reshuffle on Monday, in which most notably, he replaced Labour Minister Xavier Darcos with Budget Minister Eric Woerth, did not appear to have impressed union leaders.

Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT union, said Woerth's reputation was as the minister who had cut staffing levels in the public sector.

Sarkozy's reshuffle also saw Francois Baroin, who had served as a minister during Jacques Chirac's presidency, taking Woerth's old job. His appointment has been seen as a bid to appease the centre-right members of the party.

Sarkozy was elected in 2007 on promises to boost France's economy and get people back to work, but last year's recession has driven unemployment up to 10%, its highest level in a decade.