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Low turnout for latest strike

Just 5% of civil servants head union calls to walk out, although the rail service was disrupted.

Union bosses have conceded that turnout for the June 10 strike was lower than expected.

Only 5% of civil servants took part compared with around 30% on May 15, when seven union called for strike action.

The protest was called against a government plan to not 23,000 retiring civil servants.

A walkout by rail workers disrupted train services across France.

The rail protest caused the cancellation half of national trains, the state SNCF rail operator said.

The high-speed TGV service was disrupted as were some Paris area trains.

National rail services were expected to resume gradually from today with between 60 and 70 percent of trains back in service.

Rail workers stopped work on Monday night to protest against a reorganisation of freight services that unions say has led to some 8,000 job cuts since 2004.

Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand said the limited rail disruption was proof that a new deal struck with unions to provide a minimum service during strikes was working.

"The country is no longer paralysed," he said.

In the public sector, the one-day strike was called in protest at Sarkozy's plan to streamline the five-million-strong public service by not replacing half of retiring civil servants.

Close to 30% of civil servants took part in the last strike action called by seven unions on May 15 and hundreds of thousands of people took part in street protests.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth said the "very low turnout" in the public sector showed that the climate of labour relations between the government and unions was improving.

Gerard Aschieri, of the FSU teachers' union, admitted the turnout was "not the highest we have seen."

He said: "But underneath, there is still real unhappiness towards the government.”

Sarkozy campaigned for the presidency last year on a platform calling for a streamlined civil service as part of a broader plan to overhaul the state and bring down public spending.

Unions representing France's 5.2 million state employees object to plans to cut 23,000 jobs and a bill that would allow greater mobility in the public service, describing it as "lay-offs in disguise."

"All of this is a coherent package that amounts to dynamiting the public service," said Jean-Michel Nathanson of the Solidaires union.

The strikes by rail workers and public sector employees came as French truckers kept up a protest against high fuel prices, blocking long-haul traffic on the border with Spain.

Fishermen and farmers have also blocked roads and ports over the past weeks to press for government action to help them cushion the cost of soaring fuel prices.

Photo: Tendencies

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