Money Matters - Simplified

Fears, fuel shortages, escalate in France

Paris -- Fears of gasoline shortages are escalating in France where truck drivers have joined the protest against pension reform.

Eleven of France's 12 oil refineries have been closed down by striking refinery workers, and general strikes have affected transportation and shut down schools. Truck drivers have said they would blockade roads, drive slow or use trucks to block gasoline deliveries, Radio France Internationale reported Monday.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported 800 of the country's 12,500 gasoline stations have had supply problems. French Secretary of Transportation Dominique Bussereau said 200 had been affected. Radio France Internationale said 1,500 gas stations had run out of supplies by Monday morning.

Some of the supply problem has been attributed to panic buying. Last week, the government said there was enough stockpiled gasoline to last a month -- an effort to calm motorists. On Sunday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon took a far more aggressive stance.

"I won't let the French economy suffer from a supply blockage. The right to strike doesn't include the right to stop access to a fuel depot," he said.
He said the government would make "necessary decisions" to keep gasoline supplies flowing.

The strikes revolve around a government proposal to raise the national retirement age from 60 to 62.

Protesters called for a general strike for Tuesday. On Wednesday, union workers at Air France are expected to strike at French airports, RFI said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International

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