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Strikes target Sarkozy

HUNDREDS of thousands of angry and fearful French workers mounted nationwide strikes and protests yesterday to demand President Nicolas Sarkozy do far more to fight the economic crisis.

Public and private sector workers united in protest to seek increases in salaries, greater protection for their jobs and more intensive government efforts to simulate the economy.

Commuters in Paris braved freezing temperatures and biked, walked and even took boats to work, as trains were idled by the strike and stations stood empty. But a 2007 law ensuring minimal transport service meant that some subways, buses and suburban rail lines still had to operate - and those that did were stuffed to the gills. Delays were considerable.

Some schools were closed, banks were shut, and mail went undelivered as thousands of teachers and postal employees across the country stayed off the job. Some workers at factories hit by layoffs also joined the strike. Hospital staff also stayed off the job.

Eight national unions banded together to back the strike. The big question was whether private sector workers would join a major protest planned yesterday afternoon in Paris.

Bernard Thibault, the head of the CGT union, said it was not possible for Sarkozy to say "I saw nothing, I heard nothing and I have nothing to say."


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