French unions are set for another day of damaging strikes and street protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to overhaul pensions and raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
The demonstrations are expected to cause disruption to rail, air and urban transport, schools and postal services.
Organisers are hoping to better the turnout on 7 September, when more than one million workers took part.
Mr Sarkozy says the reforms are needed to tackle France’s budget deficit.
The walkouts are expected to hit transport the hardest. Only one in two trains will be running nationally and disruptions to services had already begun on Wednesday night.
About half of flights at Paris Orly are to be cancelled, as well as 40% at the capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and 40% at other airports throughout the country, said the DGAC civil aviation authority.
The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris says both sides will be watching closely the size of this protest. There is still the threat from some unions of open-ended action, he says, and if that gains support it will certainly apply pressure to an already embattled president.
Mr Sarkozy, already under attack from the European Union for deporting Roma and from the media over a lingering financial scandal, says he will press on with the reforms regardless.
The pension reform bill has already been passed by France’s lower house of parliament. It will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.
France’s retirement age is lower than many countries in Europe. Under current rules, both men and women in France can retire at 60, providing they have paid social security contributions for 40.5 years – although they are not entitled to a full pension until they are 65.
The government says it will save 70bn euros (£58bn) by raising the retirement age to 62 by 2018, the qualification to 41.5 years, and the pension age to 67.
Unions and opposition politicians say the plan puts an unfair burden on workers, particularly women, part-timers and the former unemployed who might struggle to hit the 41.5 year requirement.
They have made counter proposals, including calls for taxes on certain bonuses and on the highest incomes to help fund the pension system.
Read for all information at BBC News on 22 September 2010