France Faces General Strike Over Retirement Reforms

France faces serious disruption on Tuesday in a nationwide strike to fight proposals to raise the retirement age. The 24-hour-strike is set to hit public transport, banks, air traffic and the postal service. Unions said they expected hundreds of thousands of private and public sector workers to take to the streets to protest about the plans. The strike date coincides with the presentation of the pension reform bill to parliament.Some secondary school teachers went on strike on Monday, protesting against plans to cut 7,000 jobs in education. They are expected to be joined by rail workers on Monday evening. Only up to half of all inter-city and local train services are expected to run on Tuesday, state railway company SNCF said. But Eurostar trains between France and London should operate normally. France's civil aviation authority said it had asked all airlines to cut Paris flights by a quarter. Air France said it would cut short- and medium-haul flights into and out of Paris by up to 90%, with long-haul flights remaining largely unaffected. France's largest union, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), said it expected the turnout for the protest marches across the country to be stronger than during the strikes in June, when more than 800,000 people took part in demonstrations. "We may have an exceptional day and, if it is exceptional, we will perhaps be at a turning point," CGT leader Bernard Thibault said. However, President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he will not back down from his plan to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. Under the proposed law, the age for full pension payments would be lifted from 65 to 67.