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Europe poised for strike gridlock

France and Britain are preparing for a week of strike actions as public sector workers in both countries stage separate walk-outs.

French unions plan to strike in protest at plans to reform their pension entitlements which will include raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. Public services will be either completely shut down or on limited service, including air traffic control, rail and bus networks, as well as schools, post offices and museums.

High-speed operator Eurostar said its services to and from France would continue to operate normally, but added that passengers might not be able to connect to or from other train services within France. In this case, they are being given the option to postpone their journeys.

Meanwhile workers on London’s underground train network will go on strike in protest over colleagues losing their jobs at ticket offices.

The first of the strikes, by staff maintaining trains on the Jubilee and Northern Lines, appeared to be having little effect on the capital’s key transport network, which accounts for more than 1bn journeys a year.


However, two other 24-hour strikes, starting at 5pm and 9pm this evening, are likely to bring the system to a near-standstill. The strikes have appeared inevitable since Thursday, when talks aimed at averting the action broke down.

BA and Virgin to meet unions

Also today, two key meetings are being held which could decide if British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will face strike action this autumn.

Unite, the union representing British Airways cabin crew, is meeting at Kempton Park racecourse to discuss further walkouts in the long-running dispute over pay and working conditions.

The union and senior executives from the airline are scheduled to resume talks later this week after a series of failures to come up with a deal which is acceptable to both the airline and the union.

BA’s last offer was rejected by cabin crew in July leading to the possibility of more strikes including potential walkouts over the Christmas period.

Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic is due to hold negotiations with pilots’ union Balpa today to try to avoid the first strike in the airline’s 26-year history.

The two parties are in dispute over the way Virgin is interpreting an agreement on the minimum number of scheduled days off for pilots.