MOSOCW (MRC) -- France's refinery strikes are emboldening hardline unions and the political opposition hoping to ignite a broader movement that could threaten President Emmanuel Macron's reform agenda, said Reuters.
After nearly three weeks and petrol stations across the nation starting to run dry, the refinery strikes have triggered calls for more industrial action in other sectors and handed the opposition an opportunity. The left-wing NUPES parliamentary coalition aims to capitalize on the situation with a march on Sunday it hopes will be a major show of force and help turn the page on domestic violence accusations that have dogged senior members recently.
"The situation is being weaponized, when you mix it all up, you get the march on Sunday. You get the fodder that set the yellow vest fire," a government source said, referring to months of widespread and sometimes violent street protests in 2018 where demonstrators often wore yellow high-visibility vests.
As fuel shortages began to hit businesses and disrupt people's everyday lives, the government took the rare step this week of requisitioning a small number of striking refinery workers to keep supplies flowing to the pumps. Taking a cue from their refinery colleagues, some workers at nuclear power plants have begun staging rolling strikes for higher wages, hitting already record low nuclear energy production.
While polls suggest as many as two-thirds of French people support requisitioning refinery workers, the move is a red flag for unions, which see it as a violation of their constitutional right to strike. Four unions - but not France's biggest, the moderate CFDT - have called for strikes and protests on Tuesday for wage increases and also to protect the sacrosanct right to strike.
"From the beginning, the government has downplayed the strike's impact and underestimated the discontent and this is where we end up," CGT union head Philippe Martinez said on Friday on television channel franc. With the social atmosphere increasingly on edge, the situation is hardly any better in the corridors of parliament where the government is struggling to get the 2023 budget passed, having lost its ruling majority in June legislative elections.
We remind, a strike at TotalEnergies' French refineries has been reconducted across all sites after the government warned it would requisition staff at some petrol depots to secure supplies following weeks-long strikes, French media report on Wednesday, citing the hardline CGT union. Strikers also reconducted the movement at Exxon Mobil's Port Jerome refinery despite the government threat to requisition staff at depots run by Exxon's Esso France unit, France Info and BFM TV said, also citing the CGT union.