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Walkouts Hit Railways, Radio and Libraries

October 20, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ Strikes idled trains, shut libraries, and kept state radio stations without news broadcasts today, the latest job actions to plague the conservative government of Premier Edouard Balladur.

The protests come as Balladur seeks to end bickering within his conservative coalition six months before presidential elections. He is the undeclared front runner in the race to succeed Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

Workers demanding higher pay and an end to job cuts at the money-losing state railroad walked off the job for 24 hours beginning this morning, cutting service by as much as half on some lines.

Restructuring of the railroad, which lost $1.4 billion last year, has slashed 73,000 jobs over the past 10 years, said Christiane Bedon, assistant secretary-general of the communist-led CGT trade union. It was not clear how many of the 186,000 remaining employees were on strike.

Long musical interludes replaced news broadcasts on state-owned radio stations as 450 reporters seeking higher wages stayed off the job for an eighth day. The government appointed a mediator today.

Librarians also walked out today, demanding higher pay, and electric meter readers protesting a restructuring plan headed into an eighth day of their strike.

Balladur’s government has been seeking to cut a deficit running at about $60 billion. But with unemployment already running at 12.6 percent, he risks losing support with his belt-tightening efforts.

Strikes, protests and internal divisions helped undermine the conservative government in 1988, when the Socialists won the presidential and legislative elections.

The premier also is struggling to calm a crisis in his coalition after a second Cabinet minister resigned amid corruption allegations. Two others were under investigation.

S-10-20-94 0907EDT

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