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Roadblocks and fuel blockades: What to expect from strikes if you're driving in France

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Roadblocks and fuel blockades: What to expect from strikes if you're driving in France
French Force Ouvriere union members block traffic on the northern motorway entering Marseille. Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

France is in the grip of ongoing strike action in protest at the government's plans for pension reform - and unusually these strikes are also affecting drivers, with fuel blockades, péage actions and roundabout protests.

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French strikes normally mostly affect public transport, but the latest strikes could also impact drivers, with rolling roadblocks, roundabout protests and blockades of oil refineries to prevent fuel from reaching filling stations.

Strike action in France recommenced after a short break on Tuesday, March 7th with public transport such as trains and the Paris Metro severely disrupted - find full details here - and these actions are set to continue in the days ahead.

Fuel deliveries from refineries across France have been blocked by striking workers since Tuesday, the CGT labour union told AFP.

Nevertheless, according to the ministry of ecological transition, there are currently no fuel shortages. A representative from TotalEnergies told Le Parisien on Tuesday that "there is no shortage of fuel" for their 3,600 service stations (a third of France's fleet).

Drivers are also taking part in the strike action for the first time, with Patrick Blaise, general secretary of the CFDT Route union, which represents drivers, telling French media: "The unions are calling for France to be brought to a standstill, and we are going to do our bit."

Several main roads were blocked on Tuesday, including the Rennes to Lorient RN24 and entrance roads to towns including Marseille, Rennes, Miramas, Perpignan, Caen and Lille.

Some of these actions are set to continue on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

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While rail and city transport operators are able to give very precise details of disruption, things are less clear for drivers because demonstrators don't usually announce full details of their actions in advance. However, here's what we know;

Fuel blockades - oil refinery workers belonging to the militant CGT union walked out on Monday, and are also holding blockades at refineries to prevent fuel getting out to filling stations. Their action is an ongoing one, so will continue through the week. The major effect of this for drivers is likely to be impending fuel shortages, as supplies of petrol/gasoline and diesel can no longer reach filling stations.

However, it normally takes at least a week for filling stations around France to begin experiencing shortages once a blockade has started, and French media report that filling stations are currently well stocked, so there is no need to panic buy.

City blockades - truckers say they intend to carry out blockades on Tuesday and Wednesday on the outskirts of major French cities, especially targeting industrial estates and warehouses in the Paris and Hauts-de-France region. This could have a knock-on effect on deliveries and therefore stocks in shops including supermarkets as the week goes on.

Some blockades have also targeted ports, so if anyone travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel is advised to allow plenty of time for their journey.

Rolling roadblocks - there are also plans for 'opérations escargot' or rolling roadblocks - where vehicles drive abreast very slowly in order to cause traffic jams - on major routes including autoroutes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Border blockades - drivers say they also intend to block some entrance roads to cities and border crossing points, although they have not specified which ones.

Péage protests - the CGT and CFDT unions say they are planning on "blocking a péage [toll booth on the autoroute]", although they have not said which one will be targeted. 

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Roundabout protests - in a tactic borrowed from the 'yellow vests', protesters are also intending to hold roundabout protests, which are intended to slow traffic, especially on the entry to smaller towns. These decisions are taken on a local level, so will affect some areas more than others. 

 

Support - this is the first time that routiers have joined the pension protests, as many truckers are either self-employed or work for small companies which can make taking strike action more difficult.

The main hauliers' unions are concentrating on two-day actions on Tuesday, March 7th and Wednesday, March 8th, although some unions are urging their members to continue after Wednesday.

The oil refinery workers, who are employees and who have a reputation for militancy, are likely to continue their blockades for longer.

You can find the latest information for the days ahead HERE.

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16park 2023/03/08 17:53
To misquote an old saying. "France is a beautiful country, spoilt by its unions"
juncit 2023/03/06 16:00
As usual, French unions take the general public hostage to use as a weapon in their fight with democratically elected government. If they win we will all end up paying them to maintain their special privileged pensions. Bullies

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