Petrol filling stations across France have been closing after Oil workers blockaded most of France’s oil depots, effectively cutting off supplies of fuel.
This is in response to planned changes in the local employment laws by French Employment Minister Mariam El Khomri. In the long run, the French Labour Reform Bill sets out to encourage employment to rise, but the industrial action is in response to the increased ability for employers to change or end workers’ contracts. The various aspects of this arrangement are all in favour of the employer, rather than the employee. The events began as civil demonstrations, but then escalated into more violent scenes as extremists attacked police with bottles. This is spread out over provincial towns and cities, not just capital Paris.
How is this affecting France?
The immediate issue of a reduction on fuel availability is being compounded by the mass panic-buying that inevitably occurs when faced with such uncertainty. In a similar way to the downfall of Northern Rock in Britain, the problem became a crisis when huge quantities of clientele drained the resources.
The knock-on effect for French business and tourism is that airports, railways and the metro system is also being affected. Those who aren’t using their own vehicles are switching en masse to public transport, which is already suffering from fuel shortages and reduced service.
As well as public services such as transport, the protests and associated riots mean that Police resources are also stretched, in a time when the national state of emergency is still in place following November’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
What do French blockades mean for neighbouring countries?
Aside from the obvious restrictions on travel and tourism, there are fears that the impending European Football Championships will also be affected.
Companies trading with France and the Benelux countries face delays and disruptions. Parts of Kent are already well-accustomed to Operation Stack, which sees heavy goods vehicles having to line up on motorways, forecourts and industrial estates as they wait to be able to cross the Channel.