Protesters marching in Paris as French refinery strikes continue
Thousands of people march in Paris demanding greater pay to keep up with inflation and opposing President Emmanuel Macron's intention to raise the country's retirement age.
Thousands of protesters are set to march in Paris on Sunday, three weeks into a refinery strike that has caused fuel scarcity across the country, adding to a growing picture of defiance and anger about inflation.
The demonstration has been organized by left-wing political parties, which are supported by hundreds of associations that aim to build on the momentum created by the refinery standoff.
"You can see that this movement is starting to spread," the parliamentary head of the left-wing France Unbowed party, Mathilde Panot, said as quoted by France info radio.
"You can see it in the nuclear sector. Truck drivers have announced a stoppage on Tuesday, and lots of other sectors are starting to join them," she added.
Several French unions have also called for a national day of strikes on Tuesday, which will affect road transportation, trains, and the public sector.
TotalEnergies, the French energy giant, announced last Friday that it had reached a pay agreement with the two largest unions representing workers at its four refineries, putting an end to the standoff.
However, the CGT union has refused to accept it, with its members continuing to picket.
On his account, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal slammed the continuation of the strike on Sunday as "unacceptable".
"Of course, there's a right to strike, but at some point, the country needs to be able to work," he told reporters.
Staff at two other refineries owned by Esso-ExxonMobil returned to work at the end of last week, but operations will take two to three weeks to return to normal, according to the company.
Around one-third of the country's petrol stations are out of stock, particularly those near Paris and in the north, leaving drivers waiting for hours to refuel.
Many businesses have reduced travel and deliveries, and even emergency vehicles are running low on supplies.
Last week, the government used emergency powers to force some striking fuel depot workers to return to work in order to release fuel stocks that had become trapped inside blockaded facilities.
The France Unbowed party organized Sunday's protest march through Paris, which was supported by its coalition partners, the Greens, Socialists, and Communists.
In a joint letter last week, recently named Nobel literature prize winner Annie Ernaux and 60 other figures from the arts and public life urged people to join the march.
The main goal is to draw attention to the plight of workers facing rising costs (French inflation is around 6.0 percent) and to condemn inaction on climate change.
According to one source, police expect around 30,000 people to attend.
The magnitude of the upcoming protests and strikes may have an impact on the government's ability to push through a highly contentious change to the pension system.