The anger and doubts fuelling France's oil refinery protests


Many oil refinery workers, rail workers and aviation staff are on strike or set to go out on strike as France suffers fuel shortages and a power struggle between the government and those opposed to controversial labour law reforms. Union activists have criticised the “extremely violent” actions of the state in removing the blockade at the Fos-sur-Mer oil refinery in the south of France. But despite the growing impact of their industrial action, union militants admit that they will not continue the action on their own indefinitely without the help of workers in other sectors. Mathilde Goanec reports.

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“It was 4.30 a.m., there were still a good 200 of us on the picket line, and the mobile [police] units charged without any warning. We were given the full works: tear-gas grenades, Flash-Balls [rubber rounds], water cannons...” says Yann Manneval, the secretary of the local branch of the CGT trade union and also one of the pickets outside the oil refinery at Fos-sur-Mer in the south of France. Manneval was recalling the police intervention on Tuesday May 24th to clear the two barricades erected in front of the refinery and oil depot, all under the watchful eye of police drones and a helicopter. It was “extremely violent” confirms another CGT official, Emmanuel Lépine, the federal secretary of the oil branch of the union.