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French unions strike over pension reforms

By the CNN Wire Staff
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French strike against pension reform
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It is the second day of strikes this month
  • Unions are angry at pension reforms, including raising the retirement age
  • Half as many trains and flights are operated

Paris, France (CNN) -- France's eight leading trade unions Thursday staged their second day of strikes this month to protest government pension reforms that include raising the retirement age.

The strikes began overnight and continued through the day. The Interior Ministry reported that 997,000 people protested in a total of 222 demonstrations throughout the country.

Commuters suffered because of the strike Thursday, with about half as many flights and trains in operation. People crowded train platforms and squeezed onto trains.

"People can still get to where they're going, but it's pretty uncomfortable," CNN Senior International Correspondent Jim Bittermann reported from Paris. "Twice as many people jammed into half as many trains."

Most international trains and flights -- including the high-speed Eurostar and Thalys trains and long-haul flights -- were operating normally.

CNN iReport: See video of demonstrators marching across Paris

Video: France: Strikers march and protest
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  • France
  • Paris

Unions were hoping more than 2.5 million people would get involved in Thursday's demonstrations. Some union members were being brought into the capital in buses Thursday to boost the numbers.

The unions staged a similar day of strikes and demonstrations September 7.

France's National Assembly passed a controversial bill last week to raise the national retirement age from 60 to 62, something that President Nicolas Sarkozy says is needed because rising life expectancy increases the financial burden on the pension system.

The bill must still pass the Senate to become law.

There were some concessions in the bill, including an exemption for some people in especially labor-intensive or dangerous jobs allowing them to retire at age 60. Unions were hoping Thursday's strikes would result in even more concessions.

The government has made clear it will not negotiate on the main thrust of the bill.