France faces nationwide strike

Unions declared a statewide transport strike in France on Tuesday as they continue to be at odds with the government over walkouts at oil terminals that have caused fuel shortages.

Early on Tuesday, the impacts were clearly evident at the Paris hub Gare de Lyon, where crowded suburban trains were dumping waves of passengers onto the platforms every 15 to 20 minutes.

Workers at numerous oil refineries and depots run by energy company TotalEnergies opted to continue walkouts, which sparked the broader strike.

Fuel distribution has been severely hampered by their industrial action throughout the nation, but especially in northern and central France and the Paris region. The nearly three-week-old fuel strike has forced drivers to rush to fill up as it has a ripple effect on all facets of the French economy and cripples supply at about 30% of the country’s service stations.

Unions were outraged by the government’s use of requisitioning powers to compel some strikers back to work at open gasoline depots, but the legality of the action has so far been upheld. The reopening of the refineries and depots will need the deployment of requisitioning powers, according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

“The time for negotiation is over. There was an agreement,” the Minister said, referring to the arrangement that TotalEnergies and the two majority unions reached last week but that the hard-left CGT union rejects.

Eric Sellini, a CGT delegate at TotalEnergies, told the press that strikers would assemble on Tuesday night to discuss their next course of action. Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT, urged on Monday that the government “get around a table” with the unions to talk about raising the minimum wage in France. The left-wing CGT and FO unions announced a state-wide strike on Tuesday in support of increased pay and in opposition to the government’s acquisition of oil assets, which might have a disastrous impact on public transportation in particular.

The protest is the unions’ most significant threat to Macron since he was elected president again in May.

As a form of protest against the dual effects of skyrocketing energy costs and general inflation on the expense of living, unions in other sectors of the economy as well as the public sector have also announced actions. According to Transport Minister Clement Beaune, the SNCF railroad will experience “severe disruptions” with the cancellation of half of its train services.

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