Strikers cause disruptions at French ports

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Ports across France experienced disruptions and in some cases total shutdown on Saturday as union-led workers protested against government plans to increase the retirement age.

Container ships stood unloaded at Marseille on the Mediterranean coast, while a strike by workers at the oil terminals in nearby Fos-sur-Mer and Lavera over planned restructuring entered its 13th day.

More than 50 ships, including oil tankers, queued to enter the port at Marseille, although the cruise terminal was not affected by the strike, organised by the CGT, France's biggest union.

The French government warned that the strikes in Marseille were putting the port's future at risk.

"Be careful not to kill Marseille. If we continue to play this game, Marseille will disappear," Dominique Bussereau, the Secretary of State for Transport, told radio station France Culture.

The container terminal in Le Havre on France's northern coast was paralysed by striking crane operators, while dockers will strike on Sunday. Cross-channel ferries and oil deliveries were not affected.

Strikes also caused disruption at Rouen, Dunkirk, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, while Bordeaux was completely paralysed, port authorities and the CGT union said.

Fears over fuel shortages on the island of Corsica led to panic-buying of diesel, and a number of filling stations ran out of supplies the day after a tanker docked from Sardinia with a delivery.

Drivers queued to fill up before pumps ran dry, despite the regional government imposing restrictions on the amount that could be purchased and calling for calm.

The CGT has urged port workers to join a strike from Tuesday called by unions in various sectors against the pensions reform, an open-ended action which is renewable daily and could cause days of disruption in France.

Dockers also staged a strike last weekend, with a smaller walkout on Wednesday.

© 2010 AFP

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