THE WORLDPOST
03/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

France On Strike To Protest Government's Handling Of Financial Crisis

UPDATE: 2pm

The unions who organized the nation-wide strike in France say 2.5 million workers have participated, BBC reports. French police have put the total at 1 million.

The walk-out has affected transport, education and postal services throughout the country, our correspondent says, and is the biggest one-day strike since [President Nicolas] Sarkozy took up office.

With unemployment looking likely to reach 10% next year, she says, the protesters hope he will drop his programme of cost-cutting reforms and focus instead on protecting workers' jobs and wages.

Earlier:

Hundreds of thousands of French workers have gone on a one-day strike to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the financial crisis, the Guardian reports. It calls this the first general strike in an industrialized nation since the global financial crisis began.

Public and private sector workers have joined forces to protest against Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the crisis, saying too much has been done to help businesses and not enough to protect jobs and boost French workers' low wages.

It is the first wide-ranging general strike since Sarkozy took office and a rare show of unity from France's main unions. Train drivers, airport staff, teachers, postal workers and tax inspectors joined private-sector employees including bank clerks, car workers, ski-lift operators, supermarket check-out staff and even employees from the company that operates France's stock exchange.

The International Herald Tribune reports that unions called for the strike to demand the government make employment a priority, reduce the income gap and better regulate banks. It states that the strike has made an impact on French services.

Mass transit in the capital was in chaos, with service on suburban commuter lines reduced or nonexistent, and most subways and buses running well below normal frequencies. The Education Ministry estimated that 37 percent of teachers walked out. In Marseille, the country's second city, television showed buses crammed with commuters as subway service was completely interrupted.

Across France, airports were operating at reduced capacity and flights were delayed. The rail line that serves the two Paris airports was completely shut down, stranding arriving travelers in long taxi lines.

About 200 demonstrations are planned across France today.

Reuters has an explanation of exactly who is on strike and why.