17 Nov 2008

Sarkozy to return home to wave of strikes

10:50 am on 17 November 2008

France faces a week of disruption as unions wage a number of separate campaigns against President Nicolas Sarkozy's labour reforms.

Hundreds of domestic and international flights were cancelled for a third day on Sunday as Air France pilots pursued a four-day strike, due to end late on Monday local time.

Travel chaos could spread to the railways when train drivers stage the first of two strikes on Tuesday called by separate unions within days of each other over freight sector reforms.

Two days later demonstrations by teachers over budget cuts threaten school closures and on Saturday, postal workers say they will strike for a day over partial privatisation plans.

The head of one of France's biggest unions, CGT leader Bernard Thibault, urged Mr Sarkozy to pay the same attention to workers' demands as he and other world leaders have devoted to finding a solution to the financial crisis.

"It is urgent to tackle the social situation," Mr Thibault said.

Mr Sarkozy has denounced the excesses of capitalism following the worst financial crisis in decades but has angered unions by spending billions on bailing out banks while dismantling part of France's 35-hour work week and relaxing other restrictions.