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Belgian union blocks fuel depots temporarily

Published on 26/10/2010

Belgian unions temporarily blocked trucks from entering two fuel depots Tuesday to secure pledges from energy firms that they would not use them to make up for shortages caused by strikes in France.

The SETCA trade union lifted its blockades at a depot owned by French energy group Total in Feluy and Belgian firm JP Martens in Tertre near the French border after the companies gave them guarantees.

“We took this decision after getting the formal agreement of the two managements on limits to the number of French trucks coming for supplies,” Jean-Philippe Piton, a SETCA official, told AFP.

The union claimed that around 50 more trucks than usual were ferrying fuel out of the distribution centers in order to feed French petrol stations, which suffered shortages due to blockades at depots across France.

About 450 trucks with 35-cubic-metre tanks usually fill up in each depot, the union said.

The Belgian union accused the Total and JP Martens of taking sides in the French conflict by sending more trucks to fill the void in France.

“We do not accept attempts to break the strike movement in France through foreign routes,” said Manuel Morais, a regional SETCA official.

A Total spokeswoman declined to comment.

France was hit by severe fuel shortages after strikers blocked fuel distribution centres and refineries as part of a mass movement across the country to defend the right to retire at 60.

The French national oil industry association said Monday that the blockades were over at all depots across the country.

A group of Belgian left and far-left figures announced Tuesday the creation of a “support committee for workers and youths against the Sarkozy government”.

The “Belgium-France Solidarity” group, as it calls itself, said it would hold a protest Thursday at the French embassy in Brussels.