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Pickets hit oil refineries as French labour reform protests continue

Pickets at the Fos-sur-Mer refinery on 23 May 2016
Pickets at the Fos-sur-Mer refinery on 23 May 2016 AFP

Six of France's eight oil refineries were picketed by trade unionists fighting the Socialist government's labour reform on Monday and 1,500 of the country's 12,000 petrol stations reported shortages. The government reassured motorists taht substantial emergency stocks exist.


Opponents of the labour reform bill picketed a refinery and depot at Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille, on Monday morning, spreading the protests, which had been concentrated in the north and east, to the south.

Strikes disrupted production at four out of five Total refineries, while pickets reduced production at two others.

Five of France's 100-odd oil depots were also paralysed.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin declared the pickets were not "legitimate", while Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri claimed that workers were "being taken hostage".

Following Prime Minister Manuel Valls's threat to use force against pickets, police cleared protesters from in front of four depots at the weekend.

Officials said that the situation was "stable" on Monday morning, with about 1,500 petrol stations facing shortages, caused both by reduced supply and panic-buying by motorists.

The government reminded them that there are 90 days-worth of stocks at national level and 30 days-worth in the hands of service station operators.

Unions on Monday pledged to continue or step up action against the bill:

  • Truck drivers are to continue their strike, although the government promised that their overtime rates would not be reduced, as they feared;

  • Dockers are to strike during the week;

  • Railworkers are to strike on Wednesday and Thursday;

  • The CGT union has called an all-out strike on Paris regional transport from 2 June;

  • A new day of action against the strike has been called for Thursday.


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