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French Strikes Spread As Macron’s Opponents Push For ‘Confrontation’

French railway workers and civil servants voted Thursday to join striking oil refinery staff with a walkout next week, raising fears that anger over the rising cost of living could spiral into a series of blockages, IgbereTV reports 

Railway staff and civil servants represented by the hard-left CGT union, the biggest in the public sector, will stop work next Tuesday, with several labour groups calling for a national day of stoppages.

The famously militant CGT said it was pushing for higher wages for railway workers but also wanted to protest government efforts to break a strike by refinery workers that has caused nationwide fuel shortages.

“Railway workers want to press again for salary improvements and denounce the repression and attack against the right to strike,” said a union statement.

The government has resorted to emergency powers to compel some striking refinery workers to return to their jobs to release fuel stocks stuck inside blockaded facilities.

Six out of seven refineries have been affected by strikes that are now in their third week, causing huge tailbacks outside petrol stations and growing frustration among motorists.

“The time for a confrontation (with the government) has arrived,” left-wing opposition parliamentarian Clementine Autain from the France Unbowed party told France 2 television on Thursday.

A leading Greens lawmaker, Sandrine Rousseau, said Wednesday she hoped the refinery standoff would be “the spark that begins a general strike”.

Not all unions have joined the call for strikes next Tuesday, however, with the country’s biggest, the CFDT, opting out.

Left-wing political parties are to hold a protest rally against the policies of President Emmanuel Macron and the rising cost of living on Sunday.

Sympathy and anger

Until Tuesday, the government had been reluctant to inflame the pay dispute at French energy group TotalEnergies and US giant Esso-ExxonMobil whose refineries are affected.

TotalEnergies made a net profit of $5.7 billion in the April-June period and is distributing billions to shareholders, sparking some sympathy for employees pushing for higher wages.

But with 30 percent of French service stations with little or no fuel, particularly those in the Paris region and the north, the government has begun requisitioning some fuel depot workers, forcing them to return to work or risk prosecution.

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