Garbage piled up in Paris streets and fuel deliveries were blocked from refineries as workers continued rolling strikes against pension reform but President Emmanuel Macron refused to meet with unions and said the reform must go ahead.
As debate about the reform continued in the Senate, workers blocked fuel deliveries from leaving TotalEnergies TTEF.PA and Esso refineries on Friday, while power supply was disrupted and maintenance at some EDF EDF.PA nuclear reactors was delayed.
So far the impact has not been major, as cold weather has prevented the garbage in Paris and other cities from stinking, while there are no lines at gas stations yet as motorists and fuel station operators anticipated disruptions.
But the hardline CGT union at TotalEnergies’ Donges refinery said the strike would continue at least until Thursday and garbage collector unions had set no date for a resumption of services.
In a letter to unions, Macron refused to agree to their request for a meeting, saying that unions had had ample time to negotiate with the government over the past months and that now was the time for parliament to review the reform, whose key measure is a two-year extension of the retirement age to 64.
“I do not underestimate the discontent that you express nor the fear of many French people that there will be no retirement for them,” Macron said in the letter, published by French media.
He added that he would not compromise on the need to restore a durable financial equilibrium of the pension system in order to guarantee the pensions of future generations.
At the TotalEnergies refinery in Donges, western France, CGT union leader Fabien Prive Saint-Lanne blasted Macron for refusing to meet with the unions and said workers had decided to continue their strike at least until Thursday.
“The president refuses to meet with the unions … his disdain for the world of labour can only sharpen people’s anger and will either lead to violence in the streets or to revenge against Macron in the polling booth,” he said.
Unions are planning more nationwide marches on Saturday. According to an interior ministry note cited by French TV BFM, police expect that 800,000 to one million people will demonstrate.
Opinion polls show a majority of voters oppose Macron’s plan.
On Tuesday, 1.28 million people took to the streets in demonstrations across the country, the highest turnout in the sixth day of protest against the reform this year.
Fuel deliveries were also disrupted at the Fos refinery, operated by ExxonMobil XOM.N subsidiary Esso, a CGT spokesperson said.
Disruptions at liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals continued, with company Fluxys FLUX.BR saying that its Dunkirk terminal jetty and truck loading bay were unavailable and delivery capacity was reduced to a minimum.
Strike action also reduced French power generation by a 16.6 gigawatts (GW) – about 25% of current total power supply – at nuclear, thermal and hydropower plants, CGT said, but consumers felt little impact as state-owned utility EDF managed to compensate for the shortfall.