(PARIS) -- In the biggest protest yet, French demonstrators have taken to the streets of nearly 250 cities and towns nationwide expressing their opposition to a government plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
A vote on the plan, the centerpiece of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's long-promised economic reform, was expected Wednesday, but leftist politicians offered more than a thousand amendments, postponing the vote until at least Thursday evening.
On Monday night, Sarkozy, who was meeting with his German and Russian counterparts in the northern town of Deauville, remained defiant, saying, "The reform is essential and France is committed to it and will go ahead with it."
This year the French pension system is in a deficit of 32 billion euros. The global recession has steepened its decline, and Sarkozy has promised to make it solvent again by 2018.
This is the sixth national strike since Sept. 7, and it has brought even more disruptions to air, train and car travel across France as workers from every sector walked off the job.
Fifty-percent of flights were cancelled at Paris' Orly airport and 30 percent of flights were disrupted at France's busiest airport, Charles de Gaulle, as airport workers, including air traffic controllers, went on strike. Trains nationwide were running at about 50 percent of capacity.
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