PARIS, France / CNN International / Europe / September 23, 2010
France's eight leading trade unions Thursday were staging their second day of strikes this month to protest government pension reforms that include raising the retirement age. The strikes began overnight and were set to continue through the day. The unions staged a similar day of strikes and demonstrations September 7.
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."
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.
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.
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