French Standoff

AP / REMY DE LA MAUVINIERE

Like falling leaves in the Luxembourg Gardens and chestnut hawkers on the Champs-Elysées, public sector strikes are an almost inevitable feature of autumn in France. But this season there is an extra crispness to the recurring collision of labor entitlement and government reform. Unlike any of his recent predecessors, President Nicolas Sarkozy is willing to bet his entire mandate on victory in this decisive show-down with unions. He may, in fact, have little choice.

The current tussle, which halted train travel throughout France and paralyzed Paris in recent days, stems from government plans to raise the retirement age...

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