Protests began on Dec. 5, when more than 1.5 million citizens joined the demonstrations.
French union workers from the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) voted Monday to halt production at a key oil facility that supplies Paris and the surrounding region, joining other petroleum industry shutdowns in a nationwide strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
“The decision has been taken to halt Grandpuits but with a slight majority. The management has asked for an hour of reflection,” a CGT union official said. Protests began on Dec. 5, when more than 1.5 million citizens joined the demonstrations.
Grandpuits was already producing at minimum capacity before the union vote due to the strike, which is blocking deliveries from the refinery, oil company Total said. While the French Association of Petroleum Industry (UFIP) said only about two percent of France’s 11,000 petrol stations had run dry.
Other oil industry shutdowns have already taken place and are planned for the near future. PetroIneos’ 210,000 barrels-per-day Lavera oil refinery halted production on Sunday after a similar vote from the CGT union workers.
While at the CIM oil terminal in northern France, which handles about 40 percent of French crude oil imports, CGT members decided to stay on strike but held off shutting down operations which would have cut deliveries of crude to refineries and jet fuel to airports.
Despite Macron’s request, the CGT, which has been at the forefront of the industrial strike against the government, has said there will be no Christmas truce. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s office said it would restart talks with unions on pension reform on Jan. 7.
What is happening in France?
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Other sectors have also been at the forefront of the protests such as the railroad industry which over the past two weeks have halted services across the country. On Monday hundreds of striking French rail workers clashed with riot police in Paris after holding a demonstration.
The strike, which has disrupted Christmas eve travelers, has also affected other main Paris stations such as the Gare du Nord, which handles Eurostar services to London and Brussels, and the Gare de l’Est.
Unions have announced more demonstrations for Jan. 9 against the reforms.
The CGT, the Workers' Force, the French Confederation of Management and General Confederation of Executives (CFE-CFC), Solidaires, and the United Trade-Union Federation (FSU) demand the withdrawal of the pension reform project.
The protests come amid the government’s attempts to unify the French pension into a single universal system, effectively removing 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers. A measure Macron’s administration argues is “crucial” to keep the system financially viable as the population ages.
Although the CGT has expressed willingness to negotiate the universal pension system, almost Union all reject any age-related changes. A key reform would be to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years in 2027 to receive a full pension.