LIVE: French oil refineries blockaded as workers protest against pension reforms

Protesters participate in a demonstration in Reims, northeastern France on March 7, 2023.
Protesters participate in a demonstration in Reims, northeastern France on March 7, 2023.(CNN)
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 9:25 AM PST
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Paris/LondonCNN — Oil refineries across France were blockaded Tuesday by workers taking part in a sixth mass protest this year against government plans to raise the retirement age.

Schools, airports and trains were also disrupted by strikes as the country’s biggest union CGT urged people to “bring France to a halt.”

Paris is expected to bear the brunt of the protests, with most lines on the metro running only at the busiest times, according to the city’s transport agency RATP. The main education trade union FSU said Sunday that 120 schools would close for the day and 60% of primary school teachers would be on strike in the French capital.

France’s civil aviation authority, meanwhile, has asked airlines to reduce scheduled flights by 20% and 30% at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris respectively. Air France said about 20% of short-haul flights would be canceled, but long-haul services would be maintained. The airline cautioned, however, that “last-minute delays and cancellations cannot be ruled out.”

National railway operator SNCF said very few regional trains would operate and that four out of five trains on the TGV, France’s intercity high-speed rail service, would be canceled.

Cancellations are already affecting Eurostar trains connecting major European capitals, including between London and Paris, and London and Amsterdam, with disruption due to extend into Wednesday.

Fuel deliveries to gas stations could also be affected. Eric Sellini of CGT-Chimie, the main oil industry union, told CNN that workers were preventing shipments from leaving oil refineries across the country. At some refineries the blockade will continue until the end of the week, Sellini said.

Total (TOT)Energies confirmed that shipments from its refineries were blocked Tuesday, but said stocks at gas stations were at high levels. “Our teams are mobilized to meet a demand that could be stronger than usual and we have additional logistical resources if necessary,” the company said in a statement.

Strikes ‘moving up a gear’

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators will gather in more than 260 locations across France later on Tuesday, according to BFMTV.

Philippe Martinez, CGT secretary general, said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche Sunday that unions “are moving up a gear” and he expected “that the mobilizations will continue and grow until the government listens to workers.”

France has endured a series of strikes this year, as workers rail against President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms. The reforms will gradually increase the age at which most French citizens can draw a state pension to 64, from 62.

A record 1.3 million people took part in demonstrations on January 19, which brought the country to a standstill and shuttered the Eiffel Tower to visitors.

The government has said the pension legislation is necessary to tackle a funding deficit, but the reforms have angered workers at a time when living costs are rising.

The legislation is currently before French lawmakers, with a vote on the final version of the text expected later this month.