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French police clear strikers from refinery amid labor reform standoff

Riot police in France have used tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest blocking a key fuel depot near the southern port of Marseille. Pickets over labor reforms have caused gasoline shortages around the country.

Fuel trucks resumed business at the Fos-sur-Mer refinery on Tuesday morning after the pre-dawn police advance cleared strikers from the site. The operation came as Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned industrial action would not be tolerated, and that other pickets would be dealt with "extremely firmly."

"Enough is enough," Valls told Europe-1 radio. "I'm very determined."

Days of blockades at refineries and fuel depots have led to major supply problems for petrol stations across France. Union organizers have

vowed to continue striking

until the government agrees to drop a raft of controversial labor reforms.

Picketing workers in France

Workers picket another refinery at Douchy-les-Mines in northern France

"We'll see this through to the finish, to withdrawal of the labour law," said CGT union leader Philippe Martinez. "This is a government which has turned its back on its promises and we are now seeing the consequences."

Controversial reforms

The French government's reforms

relax some labor protections

and amend the rules governing the work week and overtime pay. Lawmakers say the changes will boost employment and create jobs, but unions argue they could erode workers' rights.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest since the reforms were announced three months ago, while unions are threatening to bring production to a standstill at all of France's eight refineries.

French gendarmes take position after striking workers blockaded roads

French gendarmes take position at Fos-sur-Mer after striking workers blockaded roads

So far, more than 1,500 petrol stations across the country have experienced fuel shortages. Panicked car owners, meanwhile, are flocking to fill up their tanks in anticipation of further supply problems. French media reported Tuesday that some drivers were crossing the border into Belgium to buy petrol there.

The CGT has also announced plans for strikes on the state railway, and on the Paris underground and suburban train network from June 2 - just one week before the Euro 2016 soccer tournament kicks off.

nm/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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