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French CGT union to decide on refinery shutdowns on Friday: sources

PARIS (Reuters) – Oil sector workers of France’s CGT union could decide on Friday whether to halt production at oil refineries in France in order to scale up their protest at the government’s planned overhaul of pensions, two union sources said.

Oil sector workers were among those to join France’s biggest strikes in decades earlier this month, pitting President Emmanuel Macron against the powerful trade unions who say he is dismantling worker protections.

So far they have blocked deliveries of refined products from refineries but have stopped short of shutting down production.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is meeting union leaders later on Thursday to try to break the deadlock.

The hardline CGT union has said nothing short of a withdrawal of the reform would be acceptable.

“The (CGT) union leaders will hold a telephone conference tomorrow morning during which the shut down of production could be proposed and decided,” said one of the CGT sources at Total’s Feyzin refinery.

The call will be held around 1000 GMT.

Striking oil workers are still blocking deliveries from all of Total’s refineries in France, except the Gonfreville refinery in Normandy which was partially halted on Dec. 14 following a fire, he said.

Energy major Total, which operates five of France’s eight refineries, said in a statement that its Grandpuits and La Mède refineries were running at minimum capacity and products expeditions are blocked due to the strike.

At its Donges and Feyzin and Normandy refineries, the strike was suspended and products deliveries were ongoing on Thursday, it added.

Another source said union members at Total’s La Mede refinery and those at Petroineos’ Lavera refinery are ready to vote for a shutdown if decided by union leaders on Friday.

French oil sector industry group UFIP said on Wednesday that around 1.6% of over 11,000 petrol stations in France were partially or completely out of some refined oil products.

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