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French transport unions maintain strike, call for protest Tues.

PARIS, Dec 6 (KUNA) -- The striking French transport unions continued on Friday their major strike action, which paralysed the country yesterday, in protest at the government plan to reform the retirement system.
They announced plans to prolong the work stoppage into next Monday and called for a second nationwide protest on Tuesday, according to the national rail carrier SNCF.
Over 87 percent of train drivers downed tools on Friday, up from 85 percent a day earlier, and overall one third of workers at the SNCF followed the strike call.
Mainline rail services and local trains were only running at 10 percent of capacity, similar levels to Thursday, and major urban transport like the Paris Metro was mostly closed, with 10 of 14 lines on strike.
Air traffic was down by over 20 percent, Air France said.
The second day of transport chaos caused massive traffic snarls around the nation's capital, with over 500 km of jams reported around the city, unlike Thursday when many people stayed at home and the roads were unusually calm, France Info said.
The weekend chaos for travel will affect holiday trade as people gear up for the Christmas period.
The major unions, led by the Communist CGT entity and Workers Force (FO) , took no notice of a statement from Prime Minister Edouard Philippe Friday, promising that he would not forcefully push through reforms, yet he vowed that the government was "very determined" to implement the changes, nonetheless.
Yesterday, over 800,000 people marched throughout France to protest the pension reform but there were only minor incidents when compared with the violence that flared in some "Yellow Vest" social protests that have been taking place since last November.
Also worrying for the government is the report that six out of seven major refineries are blocked by strike pickets, although they are functioning normally on the production side.
Strikers have blocked any tankers from leaving the refineries and there are fears that shortages could happen in the coming days, although French oil giant Total said there were no supply problems as yet.
On Thursday, many public sector unions called on their members to join the SNCF strikers and other transport sectors downing tools. Teachers, power workers, hospital workers and many others joined Thursday's 240 marches throughout France, but it remains to be seen if they will come out again on Tuesday once again with the transport strikers.
The government is expected next week to give full details of its reform plans, which aim to rid the system of 42 "special regimes" where workers retire early.
The plan also seeks to progressively adjust upwards to 63 the retirement age, which stands at 62 for the general sector. This is in line with many other European countries and reflects the longer life span for retirees.
The last durable transport strike in France took place in 1995, again in a dispute over retirement reforms.
After three weeks of work stoppage and chaos, the government of then President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister Alain Juppe capitulated and withdrew the reform proposals. (end) jk.gb