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Europe

French transport workers strike for second day

French workers protesting against planned pension reforms have halted deliveries from the country’s oil refineries and shut down local and national train services.

French protesters on the streets of Paris

French workers on strike for a second day

Striking public transit employees disrupted transportation services for a second day in France on Wednesday, while refinery workers walked off the job as part of a nationwide protest over government pension reforms.

Union members voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to extend their industrial action into Wednesday and followed through with their threats to shut down some train services and stop fuel deliveries.

The SNCF national rail company, which ran just one-in-three trains on Tuesday, said service would likely be as badly disrupted on Wednesday as the day before.

International train travel, however, was expected to return to normal with the Eurostar service unaffected and many other trains running at almost normal levels to other destinations.

Steel workers dressed in flame-retardent suits carrying flares

Steel workers near Marseille joined the protests

Pinch already being felt at the pump

Refinery workers, on the other hand, blocked fuel supplies at eight refineries, including all of oil major Total's six refineries in France, the CGT union said. Unions said some local fuel depots were also struck, raising the risk of shortages at fuel pumps, if the strike action continues.

An ongoing strike of oil terminals at the Mediterranean port of Marseille has left dozens of oil tankers and cargo ships waiting outside the harbor to be unloaded. The stoppage has already led to diesel supplies running out on the island of Corsica.

The French oil lobby UFIP said on Tuesday that gasoline stations on the mainland could start to see shortages in just over a week, if the strike continues.

Tuesday's nationwide protests were the biggest since the pension reform battle began earlier this year, despite widely varying estimates from police and trade unions of how many people took part. Unions spoke of some 3.5 million demonstrators, while police said the figure was more like 1.2 million.

The pension reforms, which would raise the retirement age to 62 from 60, are a cornerstone of President Nicolas Sarkozy's domestic political agenda, who has vowed not to back down, despite the protests.

Author: Gregg Benzow (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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