Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

French transport strike ends

AGENCIES , PARIS

A transport strike that crippled the French rail network for nine days petered out yesterday after workers voted to give talks on pension reform a chance.

The number of trains on the national rail system and the Paris underground approached near-normal levels for the first time since the dispute started on Nov. 13, although a full service was not expected until today.

Allies of French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the end of the stoppages as a success for him and his government, but hardline unions said they would strike again next month if they failed to win satisfaction in the negotiations.

However, the fact that unions have agreed to discuss ending special pension privileges in the transport and energy sectors was a first.

Sarkozy has refused to back down on the main element of his reform -- ending early retirement rights for most workers and index-linking their pensions to inflation rather than salaries. However, he has indicated he is ready to make concessions in other areas.

In other developments, the Sorbonne in Paris was shut down yesterday after violence between students protesting Sarkozy's reforms and students trying to get to class, the university said.

Student protesters have been blocking entry for several days to the landmark building.

"People's security is no longer guaranteed," and therefore the Sorbonne campus has been closed until Monday, the university said.

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