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French bill would weaken transit union strikes { July 17 2007 }

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French Bill Would Weaken Transit Strikes

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 17, 2007; 6:01 PM

PARIS -- Public transit strikes, a fact of life in France, would no longer force trains and buses to a complete halt under a controversial bill presented to parliament Tuesday.

Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand said the bill would guarantee at least some service for the public.

Opposed by unions, the bill would require public transit providers and workers to continue minimum service if a strike occurred _ a key campaign promise by conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The government said as much as 70 percent of French people support the measure and denied suggestions from labor leaders that is meant to weaken unions.

The bill also would require individual workers to declare their intention of striking two days before a walkout began. Bertrand said that would allow commuters to plan ahead for strikes.

"It's about knowing not just that one train out of two or three will be running," but being sure specific trains will be running and that "the school bus will be picking up my kids in the morning and dropping them off in the evening," Bertrand told senators.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the bill was not an attack on French labor's much coveted right to strike and argued that ordinary workers would benefit most.

"The right to strike is a fundamental right _ the right to go to work, too," Fillon said in an interview Tuesday with France-3 television.

He said if the bill proved effective, he would consider extending the guaranteed minimum service to other sectors, like public schools.

Several labor unions have already threatened retaliatory action if the bill passes.

2007 The Associated Press

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