Strike ends at three of 12 blocked French refineries

25th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Workers at three of France's 12 refineries have voted to end their strike, management and unions said Monday, after government warned that fuel shortages were hurting the economy.

Refineries operated by Esso at Fos-sur-Mer in the south of France and at Gravenchon in the north are to reopen, management said.

Earlier, unions said the Reichstett refinery operated by Petroplus in the east would reopen.

"An end to the strike was voted at Fos-sur-Mer at the weekend and at Port-Jerome Gravenchon today," an Esso spokeswoman said, adding that the company was still waiting for crude to resume refining.

Workers voted to keep on striking at six other refineries, including Grandpuits, the nearest to Paris, where employees have been ordered back to work under so-called government "requisitions", said Jean-Michel Maton of the CFDT union.

Workers at the Petit-Couronne refinery in Normandy are to vote on whether to end their strike before Wednesday afternoon, the CGT union's Yvon Scornet told AFP.

Refining at Reichstett will restart from next week, unions said.

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

France has been suffering severe fuel shortages, with up to a quarter of filling stations running dry, since the launch this month of nationwide protests by workers battling to defend the right to retire at 60.

Last week President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered riot police to move strikers from the entrances to the depots to allow fuel trucks through.

The only fuel distribution depots now hit by strike action protesting pension reform are those located at refineries, Jean-Louis Schilansky, who heads the national oil industry association UFIP, told AFP.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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