Hollande won't let protesters strangle economy

  • 28/05/2016
French labour union employees stand next to riot police during an operation to free up a fuel depot (Reuters)
French labour union employees stand next to riot police during an operation to free up a fuel depot (Reuters)

French riot police have removed picketers and barricades blocking access to a large fuel distribution depot as President Francois Hollande warned anti-reform protesters he would not let them strangle the economy.

The police operation to free up a fuel depot near the Donges oil refinery in western France followed similar swoops at other depots this week to ease petrol shortages caused by picketers fighting planned labour law reforms.

Although concerns were mounting about potential disruption to the Euro 2016 football tournament which begins in two weeks time, evidence elsewhere in the energy sector indicated a slightly less tight supply compared with the previous day.

Some 741 of oil major Total's 2200 filling stations were out of fuel compared with 784 a day earlier.

In the Seine Maritime region north of Paris, local government prefect Nicole Klein said the number of petrol stations without fuel had fallen significantly and lifted rationing orders.

Hollande won't let protesters strangle economy

Nevertheless at the Fos-Lavera oil port in southern France, the country's biggest, about 38 oil tankers were queued up waiting to unload, up from 12 the previous day, a port authority spokeswoman said.

Separately, the hardline CGT union said its members at the CIM oil terminal at the port of Le Havre, which handles 40 per cent of French crude oil imports, had voted to extend their strike until Monday.

Speaking in Japan after a summit with other world leaders, Hollande said France's economy was starting to pick up and should not be derailed by opponents of a reform designed to make hiring and firing easier to boost employment.

"I will stay the course because this is a good reform and we must go all the way to adoption," the Socialist leader said.

"This is not the time to put the French economy in difficulty."

Hollande's appeal was directed above all at the CGT union, which is leading street protests, public transport strikes and fuel supply pickets that also risk disrupting the European soccer tournament France is hosting next month.

AAP