Can French strikes withstand gov’t resolve?

All of France’s 200 fuel supply
depots have been cleared of strikers protesting against the government’s
pension reforms, according to an oil industry lobby.

In a separate development, workers
at three of France’s 12 oil refineries have voted to end their strikes.

Widespread fuel shortages have
affected one in three petrol stations.

The government warned that the
disruption was threatening the country’s fragile economic recovery.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde
said the strikes were costing France between $279 million and $561 million per

All 12 of France’s oil terminals
have been out of action although workers have voted to return to work at two
Esso terminals, one in the south and one in the north.

Parliament is expected to bring
into law on Wednesday an increase in the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

But the unions have called another
day of national strikes on Thursday and students are due to stage further
protests on today, Tuesday.

The French finance minister said
the shortage of fuel and the widespread protests were clearly taking their

“We shouldn’t be weighing down
this recovery with campaigns that are painful for the French economy and very
painful for a certain number of small and medium-sized businesses,”  Christine Lagarde said.

A protest by refuse collectors in
Marseille, which has left thousands of tonnes of rubbish abandoned in the
streets, is said to have spread to other cities.

Reports say the biggest rubbish
treatment centre in France, at Ivry-sur-Seine, has been blockaded for the past four

The unions have called further
national strike days on 28 October and 6 November, if President Nicolas Sarkozy
does not withdraw the pension law or open negotiations.


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