Image: French commuters crowd onto a railway platform
Francois Mori  /  AP
French commuters crowd onto a platform at the Saint Lazare Railway Station in Paris as a nationwide strike disrupted rail traffic throughout France on Thursday.
updated 3/19/2009 6:42:58 AM ET 2009-03-19T10:42:58

A new wave of nationwide strikes by angry workers demanding that French President Nicolas Sarkozy do more to fight the economic crisis hit France on Thursday.

Rail traffic was disrupted throughout France, although the high speed TGV trains that connect France with other European countries were running normally. In Paris, it seemed that many people just stayed home as subways during rush hour were less crowded than usual.

Schools, hospitals and the postal service and public transport also were affected.

Paris police laid out two routes through the capital, rather than one, for the expected crowds for a protest march that was due to start in early afternoon. Unions called on employees in the public and private sectors to join in the strikes.

In a rare move, police decided to open a second route to accommodate an overflow crowd during the march from the Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in eastern Paris.

'March is legitimate'
"This march is legitimate and useful for the country. Perhaps as a result of this march, the authorities will finally move to respond to the preoccupations of the French," former Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal said on RTL radio Thursday morning.

Video: Violent clashes in Paris after protest A strike in late January put between 1 million and 2.5 million people into French streets. Weeks later, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced measures to help people affected by the financial crisis, including special bonuses for the needy. Union leaders want further talks on more measures to help those in distress as a result of the crisis.

Sarkozy told ministers at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that he "understood the worries of the French," but said he had no plans for additional measures.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth said the measures already announced will increase social expenditures in 2009 by nearly euro10 billion (about $13 billion).

Some 200 protest marches are planned Thursday around France, according to the powerful CGT union, which has members in various sectors of the economy.

More on: France

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