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French unions blockade almost all of the nation’s oil refineries in major action

Workers of French oil giant Total gather in front of the oil refinery in Donges

PortandTerminal.com, January 8, 2020

The CGT union has called for a “total blockade” of all oil refineries across France to force the government to withdraw plans to amend the pension system.

PARIS, FRANCE – Industry in France feels as if it is slowly grinding to a halt as massive union strikes continue to force port, refinery and other closures across the country.

READ: Protestors block ports across France

Yesterday, Exxon’s refinery at Fos-sur-Mer in France was blocked by a strike of union workers as part of a massive French strike against proposed pension reform.

The CGT union behind the action has called for a “total blockade” of all oil refineries across France from January 7-10 to force the government to withdraw plans to amend the pension system.

“We’re calling for a big event at all refineries in France, from January 7th to 10th, to ensure that no product comes out for 96 hours,”

Thierry Defresne, CGT Union delegate

The trade union has called for the blockade to begin on Tuesday, January 7, through Friday, January 10, so that no refined product would come out of any French refinery for 96 hours, one of the union’s leaders at French oil major Total, Thierry Defresne, told French radio station Franceinfo.

Defresne told Reuters that seven out of the eight refineries in France would be on strike for those 96 hours, and workers would not allow any shipments of refined products to come out of the refineries.

Thousands of people striking in central paris
Massive strikes in December across France almost shut the country down

Earlier in December, on a day the French called “Black Thursday”, over 800,000 people demonstrated across the country, including 65,000 in Paris in one of the biggest strikes in France for decades. Schools, railway stations and public buildings were all shut. Air France was forced to cancel 30 per cent of its internal flights and rail operator SNCF cancelled 90% of its high-speed TGV trains.

READ: What “Le Hell” is happening in France? Is the country shut for business this week?

Later in December demonstrators blocked access to French ports, including the largest container port in the country in Le Havre. The ports of Marseille and La Rochelle were also blocked by protesters.

Why are people striking?

The French government is trying to overhaul the country’s bloated and complex pension scheme which has prompted outrage amongst unions and much of the nation’s labor force.

At 14 per cent of economic output, French spending on public pensions is among the highest in the world. The system will run a deficit of more than €17 billion ($19 billion) by 2025 if nothing is done, independent experts warn.

The French are paradoxically split, with a majority expressing sympathy for strikers and an almost equal number agreeing the government should see the reform through.

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