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French Strikes, Riots Shut Down 850 Gas Stations, Block Refineries

Some 850 petrol stations in France have been forced to close down and nearly a thousand more face shortages as union protests block oil refineries over controversial labor reforms, clashing with riot police in some locations across the country.

Unions blocked deliveries from five out of eight refineries in France to protest against labor laws passed earlier this month. The labor laws make it easier for employers to hire and fire staff and reduce overtime compensation.

Workers consider the bill unfavorable to are demanding that it be withdrawn. They also argue that the laws were pushed through without a public debate and without a vote in the Parliament.

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Workers at six refineries are on strike and around five out of the country’s 100 fuel depots are presently affected by the blockades, according to French officials cited by news agencies.

By Monday morning, some 1,600 of France's 12,000 petrol stations had either run dry or were running short of supplies, indicated that the current number of 850 petrol stations closed will rise.

The country’s northwest region has reportedly been the hardest hit in this crisis, which is now trickling down to other sectors. Due to the shortage, thousands of workers from other industries said they would be unable to drive to work.

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The authorities have also been forced to provide security details for those few deliveries that are making their way to the northern and western regions.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has opined that the country is being held hostage by protesters through its refineries, and that this will not be allowed to continue. He has indicated that security forces will be used to break the strikes.

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France experienced similar protests in 2010, when the refineries were shut down for two weeks due the massive union-led actions protesting a plan by the government to overhaul the pension system.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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