French Prime Minister Francois Fillon met with oil industry executives Friday to handle the French blockade of oil supplies. Strikers protesting a pension reform bill have strangled fuel supplies, the Associated Press reported.
The French government has ordered the oil companies to pool reserves to ensure that gas stations in every part of the country get sufficient supplies.
France has resorted to importing large quantities of fuel to make up for the shortfall, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Fillon expected the shortages to last “several more days.”
Strikers have blockaded refineries and fuel depots across France. Riot police have been called out to remove the strikers in some areas.
Armored police forcibly removed protesters from the Grandpuits refinery and depot east of Paris Friday. This facility, the fuel source closest to the city, had been locked down by union demonstrators for ten days.
Riot police also forced open a depot in Grand Quevilly in western France. Police had removed strikers blockading the facility earlier in the week, but the protesters returned.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy authorized regional authorities to use force to open fuel depots, saying the strikers were holding the rest of the population “hostage" to achieve the strikers’ political goals.
"It is not troublemakers who will have the last word in a democracy," Sarkozy told local officials in central France, promising to find and punish rioters, according to AP.
Forty percent of Frances gas stations were empty a few days ago. Police actions to open refineries have cut that number in half, according to a statement from the office of Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, AP reported.
Unions are protesting a pension reform bill which would raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.
The French Senate is expected to approve the measure later Friday. The bill has already passed the lower House of Parliament.
The French pension system is running short of funds as more workers retire and fewer are left to support them.