PARIS, France (CNN) -- French commuters faced a sixth day of travel headaches Monday as transit unions continued a strike which was costing the national rail authority an estimated 20 million euros ($29 million) a day.
Passengers wait for trains in Paris Gare du Nord, on Nov. 19, day six of the French strikes.
Fewer than half of the 700 high-speed TGV trains were running Monday, said Phillipe Routier, a spokesman for the rail authority SNCF. He said 75 percent of Thalys trains to Belgium but only a third of trains to Germany and Switzerland were running.
Roughly a third of trains to the Paris suburbs and 68 percent of national mainline Corail trains were running Monday, Routier said.
Labor unions called the strike last week, angry over plans by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to reform a special category of pensions. The government is focusing on pension plans which allow some workers -- mostly train drivers -- to retire as early as 50.
The strikes are widely seen as a test of Sarkozy's political will, and the government has so far stood firm in the face of the striking unions, refusing to negotiate on the central issue of retirement age.
But last week, the government offered to discuss all other outstanding issues, and Sunday, six of the striking unions agreed to meet with the SNCF and government representatives. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Routier said.
Among the government's possible proposals is reforming the way pensions are calculated to give workers more pension money upon retirement.
About a half million out of 27 million French workers are eligible for the special retirement plan, which began during the era of steam trains. See images of the strike »
Train drivers, who stand to lose their special benefits if the government goes ahead with the reforms, were meeting Monday to discuss whether to join in the Wednesday talks, Routier said.
The low level of public support for the striking transit workers was unlikely to be helped by a planned strike Tuesday by workers in the public sector, including hospitals and schools, along with post office and electrical workers.
The SNCF estimates the strikes are costing the authority 20 million euros a day, Routier said. CNN's Robin Oakley explains the problems facing Sarkozy » E-mail to a friend