French pension strikes raise fuel fears

An empty gas pump is pictured at a gas station in Lille, northern France.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

JEREMY HOBSON: Motorists across France are lining up at gas stations, some of which are out of fuel. And aviation authorities are telling some pilots
to make sure they have enough fuel to get back to where they came from. That's all because strikers are blocking access to refineries and oil depots. For more on this, we're joined live from London by Marketplace's Europe bureau chief Stephen Beard. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well, Stephen, tell us us what are they fighting about this time. What is this strike about?

BEARD: The workers are protesting against the government's plan to improve the public finances, cut the the deficit, by raising the official minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. And the full retirement age from 65 to 67. By European standards, this is a fairly modest reform. But many French people -- in fact most French people -- regard this as a betrayal. And in typical French fashion, they've taken to the barricades.

HOBSON: A-ha. And how bad do you think this can this get?

BEARD: Well quite a bit worse, I think. The unions have called for another day of protest tomorrow. Along with another national strike, the fourth in the past two months. And this is specifically aimed at stopping the final passage of the pension reform bill through the French legislature on Wednesday. The government is standing firm. It's pressing ahead with the bill. But because of the action against the oil refineries, the fuel situation is getting quite serious. And an oil industry group says there could now be serious supply problems by the middle of this week. And the government may have to tap the emergency reserves, so this clearly is crunch week for the French government and its budget deficit cutting efforts.

HOBSON: OK. Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London, thanks.

BEARD: OK Jeremy.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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