Truck drivers join French pension protests

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Media captionThe BBC's Christian Fraser says forecourts are running dry despite the prime minister saying there is enough fuel in the system

French truck drivers are the latest group of workers to join the strike movement against government plans to reform the state pension system.

They have staged several overnight protests, including a go-slow on motorways near Lille, Paris and Lyon.

More than 1,000 supermarket petrol stations have run out of fuel, their industry association has said.

The government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67.

A further day of strikes is scheduled for Tuesday. The Senate is due to vote on the pensions bill on Wednesday.


More go-slow protests by truck drivers are planned during the rest of the day.

There have been further blockades of fuel depots in western and southern France, and petrol stations are running out of fuel.

"At least 1,500 stations have run out of at least one fuel product or are totally dry," an industry representative has said.

About 4,500 of France's 12,500 petrol stations are attached to shopping centres, and supply 60% of the fuel used by French motorists.

"Twenty to 25% of our distribution capacity is either stopped or in trouble," said Alexandre de Benoist, a senior official with the Union of Independent Petroleum Importers, which represents the sector.

The situation in some regions, like Brittany and western France, was "very worrying" because fuel distribution stations were either on strike or blockaded by strikers from other sites, he added.

Workers at France's 12 oil refineries remain on strike for the seventh day on Monday, unions officials have said.

In other developments:

  • Students at secondary schools have joined the protest, with at least 261 schools affected. Clashes between students and police erupted at one school in a western Paris suburb as students tried to blockade the school and cars were set on fire.
  • In some cities, such as Toulouse (south-west) or Saint-Etienne (centre), public transport depots were blocked on Monday morning, preventing buses and tramways from operating for several hours.
  • Rail traffic was being disrupted with one in two fast TGV trains running, and one in three normal-speed trains running.
  • Although the Eurostar train service between Paris and London is normal, there is no Eurostar service between Brussels and London on Monday due to a strike in Belgium.
  • A key fuel pipeline that supplies the two airports in Paris has been restored, but the civil aviation authority is warning airlines operating at Charles de Gaulle to arrive with enough fuel to make the return journeys.

The government remains firm in the face of the protests.

"I won't let the French economy suffer from a supply blockage," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Sunday.

"The right to strike isn't the right to stop access to a fuel depot. That's an illegal action," he said on French television.

Several government ministers have said the country is not at risk of fuel shortages.

"The government is in control," Industry Minister Christian Estrosi told French radio on Monday.

"There will be no blockade for companies, no blockade for transport and no blockade for road users."

France has a strategic fuel reserve which holds up to three months of supplies, the government says.

Public support

According to the latest opinion polls, more than 70% of French people continue to support strike action.

Rail unions have called for new transport strikes to start on Tuesday, including the Eurotunnel services between France and England.

The French civil aviation authority has said airlines were being asked to reduce flights to Paris's Orly airport by 50% and to all other airports by 30% on Tuesday because of the strike.

On Saturday, a fifth day of protests brought 825,000 people on to the streets, police said, although unions put the figure at 2.5 million to three million.

The pension reforms have already been approved by the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament.

The upper house, the Senate, has endorsed the key articles on raising the retirement age, and is due to vote on the full text on Wednesday.

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