FOS-SUR-MER, France (AP) — Behind blockades of flaming tires, striking workers in front of the Fos-sur-Mer oil refinery are standing firm, playing the accordion — and slowly draining France of its fuel.
The union-led blockade, one of several set up at refineries and depots across France, is aimed at securing the withdrawal of the country’s labor reforms, which hopes to inject new life into the country’s rigid labor market. But many fear the new rules will merely erode social protections without creating new jobs, and the fuel blockades here and elsewhere are intended to pressure the government into withdrawing it.
“Not one oil drop goes out,” union activist Maxime Picad told The Associated Press outside Fos-sur-Mer, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Marseille, on Monday. “We’ve been blocking (the refinery) since 2:00 am this morning. We are on track to stay until we have the withdrawal of the labor law.”
Black smoke rose from burning tires as trucks were backed up on the road to the complex, which also houses a gasoline depot. One activist played “Bella Ciao,” the Italian resistance song, on an accordion.
The blockades are beginning to bite as far away as Paris.
“When you block the gasoline you block everything, you block the economy,” said Philippe Taillard, who was interviewed outside one of the capital’s service stations, where workers were putting up “Out of order” signs.
Taillard said a woman he knew in the trailer rental business was already seeing canceled bookings.
“This is getting dramatic,” he said.
French authorities, however, are beginning to lose patience, with police intervening to clear protesters from the entrance to one facility. More police action is possible if the blockades continue. Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the government would act when protests “were no longer legitimate.”
Cetinic reported from Paris.
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