France prepares for major chaos as trade unions call for transport strike

France was gearing up for a day of massive turmoil Tuesday after unions called for a nationwide transport strike as they continue to stand in a deadlock with the government over strikes at oil depots that have caused fuel shortages.

The move comes after workers at several refineries and depots run by energy giant Total Energies voted to extend their strike action.

Their industrial action seriously disrupted the flow of fuel throughout France, especially in northern and central France and in the Paris area.

Motorists are scrambling to fill up their tanks as the fuel strike lasts for nearly three weeks, cutting supplies at just over 30% of French petrol stations, with knock-on effects in all sectors of the economy. .

The government of President Emmanuel Macron has used its requisition rights to force some strikers to open fuel depots. The move infuriated the union, but has so far been upheld in court.

“We will continue to do our best,” Macron said after a meeting with ministers, adding that he hoped to “resolve the crisis as quickly as possible.”

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has previously said requisition rights must be exercised to reopen refineries and warehouses.

“The time for negotiations is over,” Le Mer told broadcaster BFMTV.

“There was negotiation, there was agreement,” he added, referring to an agreement signed last week between TotalEnergies and the two majority unions, which the far-left CGT union rejected.

CGT boss Philippe Martinez on Monday suggested that the government “go around the table” with trade unions to discuss raising the minimum wage in France.

“Conscription is unacceptable and never the right solution,” added Frédéric Suillot. The FO union is participating in a day of strike action, the biggest challenge for the union since winning his new presidential term in May. .

– Train suspension –

The left-wing CGT and FO called for pay hikes and a nationwide strike on Tuesday, especially against the government’s requisition of oil facilities, which threatens to cripple public transport.

Other industry and public sector unions have also announced actions to protest the double impact of high energy prices and overall inflation on the cost of living.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune said rail operator SNCF had seen “serious disruption” with half of its train services being cancelled.

Suburban and bus services in the Paris area will also be affected, but the Paris metro system should be largely unaffected, according to operator RATP.

Besides transport workers, the union hopes to attract staff from sectors such as the food industry and health care, CGT boss Martinez told France Inter radio.

Macron also seeks to implement his major domestic policy of raising the retirement age in France, so their actions mark the beginning of what is likely to be a tense autumn and winter.

But the economic pressure, partly caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the failure of Macron’s party to secure a majority in June’s parliamentary elections exacerbate the challenge.

The latest call to strike came after tens of thousands of protesters marched in Paris on Sunday to express their frustration over the rising cost of living.

The demonstration was called by the left-wing opposition party and led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the French Amboud (LFI) party.

Some protesters wore yellow fluorescent vests, which led to often violent anti-government protests in 2018 that rocked the Macron government.

Organizers claimed 140,000 people attended Sunday’s march, but police said the figure was 30,000. France prepares for major chaos as trade unions call for transport strike

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