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French union threatens refinery shutdowns, halt to oil deliveries to protest pension reform

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Protestors with French hard-left union CGT march during a demonstration in Paris, France, on Thursday, October 27, 2022.
Protestors with French hard-left union CGT march during a demonstration in Paris, France, on Thursday, October 27, 2022. © Thibault Camus, AP

Unions representing French oil workers on Thursday called for strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, threatening a repeat of the refinery and depot closures that caused chaos for motorists last year.

The walkouts planned for January 19 and 26 and February 6 would include “shutdowns of refinery installations if necessary,” said Eric Sellini, national coordinator of the CGT union federation at energy giant TotalEnergies.

Strikes will mean “reductions in output” and “a halt to deliveries”, he told AFP.

A walkout on January 19 will coincide with a national day of strikes and demonstrations, backed by all France’s major trade union federations, against Macron‘s pension plans.

Worker representatives object to the government’s proposed raising of the legal retirement age by two years, to 64, and faster increases in the minimum number of years of contributions required to receive a full pension.

A 24-hour strike by oil workers on January 19 could be followed up by 48 hours from January 26 and 72 hours from February 6.

Weeks of industrial action at refineries and depots in autumn caused biting fuel shortages for motorists, with huge queues forming at many petrol stations.

The oil workers’ announcement follows Wednesday calls for walkouts in the transport sector, which hobbled activity during Macron’s last pension reform bid in 2019-2020.

Ministers have sought to play down the risks of crippling strikes and demonstrations, which forced then-president Jacques Chirac to back off a 1995 pension reform.

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“This strike can happen without jamming up the country,” public services minister Stanislas Guerini told broadcaster Cnews Thursday.

(AFP)

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