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French unions call for renewed strikes at refineries, ports

London — The Federation of the Chemical Industry, part of the French CGT labor union, has called on staff at refineries and at other companies in the chemical sector, to extend their industrial action against the government's pension reform and block deliveries from plants Tuesday-Thursday next week.

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This follows the previous call to block deliveries from refineries January 7-10. Separately, the Federation of Port and Dock Workers, part of French CGT labor union, has called for a halt of operations between over the same period next week, after calling for a similar halt of port operations from January 9 until 11.

French labor unions, including the CGT, FO and FSU, called on employees in all sectors to take part in industrial action against the government's pension reforms. The on-off strike, which started December 5, has been extended several times and has now entered a second month. The next day of nationwide protests is planned for January 14.

Deliveries have been blocked from Total's Feyzin, Fos-sur-Mer, Lavera, Grandpuits, Donges, Gonfreville and La Mede biofuel plant, but the oil major said that the refineries continue to operate and stock product, with less than 5% of the staff having joined the industrial action.

Product loadings have also been disrupted on an intermittent basis from ExxonMobil's refinery at Fos-sur-Mer in southern France, but have faced only limited disruption at the company's Gravenchon refinery.

Union sources say staff at Petroineos' Lavera have resumed the shutdown of units after a pause over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Staff at the plant started shutting units in December, the CGT said earlier. The company declined to comment.

The Federation of the Chemical Industry said the shutdown of the steam cracker at Naphtachimie Lavera by the union, would lead to the halting of other plants in the region.

According to the ministry of ecology earlier this week, six out of the seven refineries have problems with deliveries, but nonetheless supplies to retail stations remains normal.

France has a total of 200 oil terminals as well as terminals at refineries, with only a negligible number of terminals experiencing problems with deliveries over the past week, the ecology ministry and Total said.

More than 98% of the 11,000 service stations still have normal supplies, the ecology ministry also said. As of Thursday, only 54 of Total's 3,500 stations had delivery problems.

Despite the blockades, there has been only a small increase of demand for diesel imports into France, though this was also attributed to the intermittent strike at ports.

Operations have been disrupted on and off at Le Havre, Rouen, Brest, Lorient, Donges and St. Nazaire, La Pallice, Bordeaux, as well as the Fluxel operated Fos and Lavera oil terminals in the Mediterranean and at the CIM oil terminal at Le Havre.

Hence, France has had to use some of its strategic stocks, market sources said in December. France held 106 days of net imports in crude and product stocks at the end of September, well above the 90-day requirement of the International Energy Agency. The ecology ministry said Wednesday that France has enough stocks cover more than three months' demand.

-- Elza Turner,

-- Virginie Malicier,

-- Chris To,

-- Edited by Jonathan Dart,