20 Oct 2010

Demonstrators step up pension reform protest

8:13 am on 20 October 2010

More than one million people have taken to the streets in France in protest against Government plans to raise the age of retirement age.

Many flights have been cancelled, train services disrupted, schools have been closed and police have clashed with protesters in several cities.

Shops were looted in Lyon and cars were set on fire in a Paris suburb during the protests on Tuesday.

Outside a secondary school in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, youths threw stones at police who responded with tear gas.

Stoppages by transport workers and a week-long blockade of oil refineries have hit fuel supplies, causing 4,000 petrol stations to run dry and leading to longe queues of motorists at stations still selling fuel.

President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed for calm but insisted he would press ahead with plans to raise the retirement age, the BBC reports.

The day of action was being seen as a last attempt to mobilise protesters before the Senate's final vote on the government's pension reforms.