French authorities report fuel shortages

Voice of America

Truck drivers slown down traffic on highway A1 near Lille, northern France, as they demonstrate against the government’s pension reform, 18 Oct 2010 (AFP photo)

Truck drivers are staging slowdowns on key French highways to protest an unpopular set of government retirement reforms as authorities brace for a new round of nationwide demonstrations Tuesday.

Oil refinery workers, high school students, rail workers and other protesters on Monday sought to maintain pressure on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s reforms, which face a key Senate vote expected Wednesday.

The proposed reforms include provisions to raise the French retirement age from age 60 to 62.  The lower house of parliament approved the legislation last month, and the Senate is expected to follow suit.

High school students joined the ongoing protests last week, and riot police in suburban Paris fired tear gas Monday at masked youths who set several cars on fire and ransacked bus stops.

Authorities on Monday reported fuel shortages at some of the country’s 12,500 gasoline stations, as protests at the country’s 12  major oil refineries entered a second week.

French transport secretary Dominique Bussereau acknowledged Sunday that about 200 gasoline stations were experiencing fuel shortages.  The French daily Le Parisien said Monday 800 stations were affected.

An oil industry spokesman Monday said gasoline shortages have not yet reached a danger stage.  He said current stockpiles would ensure supplies for several weeks.

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