Talks in France as Fuel Blockades Continue

Talks in France as Fuel Blockades ContinueTalks in France as Fuel Blockades Continue

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has held emergency talks about the country’s energy supplies, as blockades continue at fuel depots.

French workers have been striking against planned changes to the labor laws.

In an interview with the French capital’s “Le Parisien” newspaper on Saturday, Valls insisted there would be no U-turn on the controversial reforms that have angered French unions. They have led to fuel protests and blockades that have practically brought the country to a standstill, AFP reported.

The worsening strikes have led to shortages at gas stations across France, leading to the release of strategic oil reserves and violent clashes between police and protesters.

The action comes just weeks before soccer fans flood into the country for the Euro 2016 championships and while the country is under a state of emergency first imposed after the attacks in Paris last November.

Valls said last month: “The state of emergency cannot be permanent but for these big events ... we have decided to prolong it.”

The emergency will be in force for both the Euro 2016 football championship and the Tour de France cycling event.

While saying that he respected unions’ constitutional right to strike, Valls said the blockades were a step too far, adding that they “infringe on free movement, hamper employees or those who are looking for a job; in general it’s low income people who suffer the most in this situation.”

Labor unions have pledged to intensify their action and two of the seven central unions have demanded the complete withdrawal of the legislation.

But Valls insisted that the proposed labor reforms had already been altered several times at the insistence of unions and that the government would press on with plans to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.

Further protests are expected next week with strikes expected to hit domestic public transport and flights on Tuesday.

The CGT union has called for rolling strikes on the Paris Metro network to start on June 10, the day Euro 2016 begins, adding to security concerns after last year’s terror attacks in the city.