Another 24-hour nationwide strike has begun in France causing severe disruption to road, rail and air links across Europe.
Protests against government proposals to raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62 follow just days after French workers walked out in solidarity with European demonstrations against austerity budgets.
Train drivers in Paris were the first to stop work this morning, with transport workers expected to be joined by workers throughout the French economy with support for the action appearing widespread.
Street protests are being planned for later today as well as on Saturday.
In Marseilles – a key Mediterranean oil port – a strike by dock workers has entered its third week forcing a partial shut-down of a major refinery ahead of today’s national stoppage.
Across the country intercity trains to Paris were running at only one-third of normal frequency, while rural services were more seriously disrupted, according to the national train operator SNCF.
Air traffic controllers have joined the protests, with hundreds of flights cancelled as a result.
Ryanair was among the hardest hit, with the low-cost carrier forced to cancel 250 flights to-and-from France as a result of the action.
In response the airline is calling for a curtailment of the right to strike among essential service providers.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “How many more times will Europe’s airlines and their passengers be disrupted by unnecessary airspace closures, strikes and work to rules before the EU Commission finally takes some action?
“Striking French air traffic control staff are the modern equivalent of highwaymen.
“They don’t care about consumers, they don’t care about passengers, they repeatedly strike because they know they can shut down Europe’s skies and hold EU Governments and passengers to ransom.”
Air France has also seen staff join picket lines.
At Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports, 30 per cent of flights were expected to be cancelled, while about 50 per cent of those at Orly have been hit.
Long-haul flights were, however, expected to be maintained.