Source AP ©

Paris subway and bus workers to organize strike next week

Paris subway and bus workers will strike next week against planned pension reforms by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

The CGT union called for a walkout next Wednesday on Paris public transport.

Leading unions at the national rail authority also announced that they were considering a 24-hour strike before Christmas, also over the pension reforms. The rail unions did not fix a date for the walkout.

A massive strike over the same issue disrupted rail traffic in France for 10 days last month. As that walkout ended, negotiations started between labor unions and the government over Sarkozy's plan to end special retirement privileges for a half-million train drivers and other state employees.

The government says the retirement reform is essential for modernizing the economy and saving the indebted pension system. Sarkozy's rivals, however, fear it spells the beginning of the end of the labor protections considered part of the French way of life.

Under the proposed plan, rail workers and others will have to work for 40 years to qualify for full pensions, compared with 37.5 years currently.

The strikes are part of a series of protests against the reforms Sarkozy pledged during his election campaign earlier this year.