Strike ends at one of 12 blocked French refineries: unions

25th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Workers have voted to end a strike at one of France's 12 halted oil refineries, unions at the plant said Monday, as the government warned fuel shortages were hurting the economy.

The fuel depot at the Reichstett refinery operated by Petroplus in the Rhine valley of eastern France will reopen right away, and refining operations will restart from next week, a union statement said.

"We're showing the public our goodwill and that we want to continue to supply the region with refined products," said Jean-Luc Bildstein, representative of the CFDT union.

Reichstett workers walked out on October 15 to oppose plans to downgrade the site from a full refinery to simple fuel storage dump, and the strike was not directly connected to broader protests against pension reform.

But the action contributed to fuel shortages being felt across France after other refineries and fuel distribution centres were hit by rolling protests by workers battling to defend their right to retire at 60.

"We stopped work for a specific reason, even if we are in solidarity with the national strike," Bildstein said. "We want our site to be safeguarded in its entirety and for jobs to be maintained."

Around one in four French filling stations was still short of at least one type of fuel Monday, despite the government sending in riot police to break up protest blockades and allow deliveries to resume.

The loss-making Swiss group Petroplus has said it wants to end refining operations at Reichstett with the loss of 253 jobs, arguing that it would cost 220 million dollars to modernise and make profitable the Rhine site.

But unions said on Monday the group had now at least undertaken to continue supplying crude oil to the site for refining while negotiations over its future continue with unions and French officials.

© 2010 AFP

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