New wave of French strikes raises spectre of May 1968 protests

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The battle between President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French unions over pension reforms enters a crucial phase today with a new wave of strikes and protests across the country.

Workers and students are expected to take to the streets in an escalation of industrial action against government plans to raise the official retirement age to 62, with walkouts bringing disruption to France's transport network, schools and oil refineries.

For the first time, several unions have voted for open-ended "rolling strikes" aimed at forcing concessions from the president, who has made pension reform the centrepiece of his five-year term in office.

The announcement that secondary school and college pupils will join the demonstrations against Sarkozy, whose popularity is at a record low, raises the spectre of May 1968, when a series of student strikes led to rioting and nearly brought down the government....

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