Operations in five refineries owned by multinational oil giant, Total have been grounded in France as a strike over new labour laws spread to all of eight oil refineries in the country, the CGT union has said.An estimated 20 percent of petrol stations have either run dry or are low on supplies.
Clashes broke out at one refinery early on Tuesday when police broke up a picket at Fos-sur-Mer in Marseille.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted the labour laws would stand, and that further pickets would be broken up.
“That’s enough. It’s unbearable to see this sort of thing,” he told French radio. “The CGT will come up against an extremely firm response from the government. We’ll carry on clearing sites blocked by this organisation.”
The strike has gradually spread across France’s fuel infrastructure, hitting oil refineries, fuel depots and petrol stations across the country.
The government said two out of every 10 petrol stations were affected, but motorists uploaded details of many more that had problems with supplies.Police moved in early at dawn on Tuesday to dismantle a blockade outside the Fos-sur-Mer oil refinery and petrol depot at Marseille port.
Tear gas and water cannon were fired, projectiles thrown, and tyres and pallets set alight, reports said. Several people were hurt on both sides. In his first intervention in the dispute, President Francois Hollande denounced the blockade as a “strategy supported by a minority”. Multinational Total, which owns five of France’s oil refineries, threatened to review its investments in response to the disruption.
“If our colleagues want to take an industrial asset hostage for a cause that is foreign to the company, you have to ask whether that is where we should invest,” Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne told reporters.
He cited a planned €500m modernisation plan at Donges, near the western port of Saint-Nazaire, where some of the biggest disruption took place on Tuesday.
“I’m not saying we won’t go ahead with it, just that we must learn the lessons of what’s happening and review these plans.”