Workers opposed to a higher retirement age blocked access to airports in Paris and around the country on Wednesday as hooded youths smashed store windows amid clouds of tear gas outside the capital.
Riot police forced striking workers away from blocked fuel depots in western France, restoring gasoline to areas where pumps were dry after weeks of protests over the government proposal raising the age from 60 to 62.
Riot officers in the Paris suburb of Nanterre and the southeastern city of Lyon sprayed tear gas but appeared unable to stop the violence.
After months of largely peaceful disruptions, many protests erupted into violence this week over the government's push to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed that his party would pass the reform in a Senate vote expected on Thursday. He said on Wednesday he would “carry the retirement reform through to the end.”
Many workers feel the change would be a first step in eroding France's social benefits — which include long vacations, contracts that make it hard for employers to lay
off workers and a state-subsidised health care system — in favour of “American-style capitalism.”