Commuters climbed aboard military trucks for an unusual ride to work Wednesday after the government called out the army to carry people stranded by a bitter transit strike.
Two out of four regional express train lines were paralyzed for a third straight day by a maintenance workers strike called by the Communist-led General Confederation of Labor.Disruptions have spread to the Metro and city buses. But most Metro lines were functioning normally and the transit agency reported about 60 percent of the buses were running.
More than 200 military vehicles were on hand to help get people to work, but even with up to 25 people crammed into a truck the fleet can only carry a fraction of the capacity of the express trains.
"I feel like a victim," said computer operator Houria Bendahmane after a two-hour ride from the suburb of St. Germain-en-Laye west of Paris. "We were well-assisted, but frankly it was not too comfortable.."
Commuters arriving in trucks at the Porte d'Orleans at the southern edge of Paris said it took 90 minutes on clogged highways for what is normally a 30-minute train ride.
"These are military trucks usually used for logistical transport, but we're trying to make them as comfortable as possible," Jean-Pierre de Valence, spokesman for the military governor of Paris, said on French radio. "I'm sure that with good humor everyone will understand it's something interesting."
Michel Rousselot, head of the Paris Autonomous Transit Agency, said after 14 hours of meetings with representatives of the labor federation and six other unions Wednesday that the agency was sticking to the salary offers the unions have rejected.
The federation, the dominant union at the transit agency, is demanding increased safety measures and across-the-board pay increases of $170 per month.
The transit agency has offered immediate monthly raises of about $25 plus bonuses ranging from about $17 to $100 per month.