French Truck Drivers Block Oil Refineries in Protest : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sun, 03 Sep 2000, 10:58am EDT French Truck Drivers Block Oil Refineries in Protest (Update1) By Lori Brumat

Paris, Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- French truck drivers will today block all the country's refineries, pressuring the government to compensate them for soaring oil prices, labor unions representing the truckers said.

The cost of oil has almost tripled in 18 months, reducing earnings for trucking companies. Protesters want the government to reduce taxes on fuel, representing 74 percent of the price of a liter of unleaded gasoline.

``We'll do anything to get what we want,'' said Christian Rose, secretary of the Union Nationale des Organisations Syndicales de Transport Routier Automobile, or UNOSTRA, which represents French trucking companies.

Fishermen last month blocked ports in the northwest and south of France, saying oil-price increases made fishing unprofitable. Farmers have also protested. The truckers, however, have ability to cause greater disruption. In previous years, truckers have paralyzed traffic by blocking the nation's main highways in protests aimed at higher pay and earlier retirement.

Concern the protest will cause fuel shortages led to a rush on gas stations across the country. Many stations took added delivery of fuel to counter the effect of the blockade.

The government last week eliminated a road tax for private cars and shelved plans to increase tax on diesel, measures aimed at soothing anger about the oil-price increases. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said today that the government was open to discussions with truckers.

Jospin Pledge

``The government is ready to take specific measures for the industries in greatest difficulty'' as a result of rising oil prices, Jospin said at a meeting of the Socialist Party in La Rochelle, on the west coast. He didn't elaborate.

Fuel accounts for a quarter of truck companies' costs, according to UNOSTRA. Operating costs in the industry have increased between 12 percent and 15 percent in the last 18 months as a result of the increase in oil prices, the union said.

The union wants the government to reduce taxes commensurately with any increase in oil prices. The union also wants the government to give truckers 70 centimes of free gasoline per liter.

Not all unions representing truckers are participating in the protest. Force Ouvriere, the most militant of France's unions, said the protest was as a ``problem for company owners'' and advised members against joining the blockade.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 03, 2000


September 4 2000 EUROPE

Farmers tighten siege of refineries


FRANCE was facing chaos for the third time in a week last night as farmers and road hauliers prepared to mount roadblocks as part of campaign to force a cut in the price of diesel. Blockades are likely around oil refineries by this morning, with demonstrators threatening to create petrol shortages as the country returns to work after the summer holidays. Privately, however, the hauliers and farmers hope the Government will cave-in to their demands, just as it gave in to a similar campaign by fishermen last week. At the weekend Lionel Jospin, the Prime Minister, hinted at his willingness to back down - an attitude that is likely to win approval from voters who have become wearily accustomed to disruptive industrial action.

The French Road Hauliers' Union, which is demanding a reduction of seven pence per litre in petrol tax, said: "Pressure is mounting more and more and the mood is not in favour of compromise."

Ten refineries in the southeast are likely to be blocked, three in the southwest, four in Britanny and at least two in Normandy. The hauliers and farmers say they will extend their action, suggesting that they block roads and ports as well if the Government failed to meet their demands.

Over the past week, railway workers in Nantes, western France, and Amiens, northern France, have taken industrial action to protest against attacks on guards in trains. Airline workers are also planning to stop work this month.

During the summer there have been a number of violent protests at private sector firms. Workers at a bankrupt textile company, Cellatex, poured 5,500 tonnes of sulphuric acid into a stream in eastern France in a bid to attract attention to their plight.

In central France employees occupied the Bernard Faure factory, which makes car seats, when management said that it would close the plant. In Alsace workers threatened to explode gas cannisters at the Adelshoffen beer factory after it had been taken over by Heineken.

In southern France, wine producers have added their voice to the chorus of discontent, blocking roads and demonstrating outside local authorities to complain about the import of foreign produce.


-- Martin Thompson (, September 03, 2000.

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