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France is facing complete transportation chaos as public transport system workers join mass protests, adding to the desperation already caused by nationwide fuel shortages and refinery shutdowns.
The workers union announced that the number of high-speed trains will be reduced by half, and only 40 percent of all regional trains will be running. All forms of transportation will be affected, including sea ports, railways and the metro system.
Reports note oil tankers backed up outside the port of Marseille.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Air France pilots have approved a strike that is expected to begin in June.
Last week, strikes broke out at the country’s nuclear power stations, with workers from 16 of France's 19 nuclear stations, supplying 75 percent of the nation’s electricity, joining in the strike.
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Petrol shortages are still a major issue around the country as five of eight refineries have either halted or slowed production. Some one-third of the country's 12,000 petrol stations are out of fuel or running low.
As of last week, France has been relying on its strategic fuel reserves due the widespread blockades of oil depots by union activists. The country has oil reserves worth some three months of consumption on which it can draw in emergencies.
The demonstrations oppose reforms that would extend workdays and make it easier for companies to lay off workers, among other things.
The largest union organizing the protests, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), has accused the government of “aggression” against the demonstrators through the use of water cannons and other crowd control methods.
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Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Socialist leader Bruno Le Roux suggested changing the clause regarding the national agreements, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls has rejected the proposal out of hand.
All of this is putting huge pressure on the government to resolve the issue with the union, particularly due the fact that the country is hosting Euro 2016 championships in ten days and will find it challenging to host an anticipated 2.5 million spectators.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com