( AP ) - French unions split Friday over whether to pursue a strike that has hobbled transport nationwide, with some voting to keep the walkout going through the weekend.
Nearly 68 percent of employees for the national rail network went back to work, up from 38.5 percent on Wednesday, the first full day of the strike.
The division gave President Nicolas Sarkozy the upper hand in his plans to strip away the generous pension benefits of many transport workers. The unions were having trouble persuading the rank-and-file workers to stay off the job, compromising their hopes of forcing Sarkozy to back down.
One important union, CFDT-Cheminots, urged workers to return to work for now, saying the protest was losing momentum and calling for negotiations. Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, pressed strikers to stand down.
"Travelers continue to be seriously penalized by a movement that has no more reason to continue," he said.
Sarkozy's image as a reformer who has pledged to modernize France to better compete in the global economy depends on his not caving in to the pressure in the biggest labor test of his six months in office.
Many commuters again had to walk, bicycle or roller-skate to work - or gamble on getting on one of the reduced number of buses, trains or subways operating across the country.
National rail operator SNCF said about 260 high-speed trains were operating, far fewer than the 650-700 on normal days, but up from 150 on Thursday.
SNCF executive director Guillaume Pepy said that "some uncontrollable strikers - or outside elements" were blocking trains by lighting fires or setting off firecrackers. He called such actions "scandalous and absolutely unacceptable."
Only two subway lines in Paris were closed completely, and about one in three buses were running.
More than 76 percent of Paris transport workers were back at work Friday, the local transport authority said.
But the protests had not completely petered out.
Many of the hard-line strikers were drivers - those who have the most impact on whether trains run. Some 82 percent of subway drivers were still on strike, while 92 percent of drivers on Paris' suburban RER lines stayed off the job, said Pierre Mongin, the president of the Paris transit authority.
Unions began the walkout late Tuesday to protest Sarkozy's plans to end some benefits for train drivers and some other state employees. Some protesters hope to keep the movement going until Nov. 20, when civil servants are planning their own strike and demonstrations.