French labour dispute: Energy supplies hit by strike action

France is braced for further disruption to its energy
supplies as workers at oil refineries, nuclear power
stations, ports and transport go on strike.
But in a sign of the growing pressure on the government, PM
Manuel Valls said the labour reforms at the heart of the
dispute could be “modified”.
Motorists have been panic buying fuel, some petrol stations
struggled to get supplies.
France is due to host the Euro 2016 championships in two
weeks time.
Union disruption was expected to take place at:
Sixteen of France’s 19 nuclear power stations
Six of France’s eight oil refineries, already hit by strikes and
barricades
The ports of Marseille and Le Havre among others
Orly airport in Paris has cut flights by 15% and a rolling
strike by train drivers is expected to further disrupt regional
and commuter services.
The unions have also called for rallies in most major cities.
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French jokes about fuel shortages
Violence mars Paris police protest
Labour reforms: Hollande’s last throw of the dice
CGT union member at nuclear power plants voted on
Wednesday to join the strike.
Nuclear power provides about 75% of the country’s
electricity. Grid operator RTE said nuclear power capacity
was being cut by at least four gigawatts – equivalent to 6% of
the country’s total production capacity – on Thursday,
Reuters news agency reports.
Meanwhile, the French Union of Petroleum Industries says a
third of France’s 12,000 petrol stations are running dry.
It said the government had begun using its strategic fuel
reserves, which analysts say will last around four months.
Transport Minister Alain Vidalies has said 40% of petrol
stations around Paris are struggling to get fuel.
President Francois Hollande told ministers on Wednesday
that “everything will be done to ensure the French people
and the economy is supplied”.
As the union action ramped up on Thursday morning, Prime
Minister Valls said that although the new labour laws would
not be withdrawn, “there may still be changes,
improvements”.
There has been no reaction from the CGT union, which has
led the way with the action.
It was enraged by the government’s decision to use a
constitutional device allow its watered-down labour reforms
to be made into law without parliamentary approval.
The government says the reforms, which make it easier for
companies to hire and fire staff, are needed to bring down
unemployment.
French labour reform bill – main points
The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average.
Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or
fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46
hours
Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly
regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on
more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a
downturn
Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and
special leave, such as maternity or for getting married.
These are currently also heavily regulated
Are you in France and affected by the strikes? Are you a
worker taking part in industrial action? Or are you
about to travel to France and concerned about how the
strikes will affect you? Please get in touch. Email
haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk
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