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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Michael Fitzpatrick

French media divided over who's to blame for crippling fuel strike

CGT leader Philippe Martinez talks to strikers at the Port-Jérôme refinery in northern France. AFP - LOU BENOIST

As the wage dispute in the petrol refinery and distribution sector enters carries on, the French daily newspapers are sharply divided on the question of who is to blame for the chaos on the nation's streets, with desperate motorists scrambling for a few drops of juice.

Left-leaning Libération accuses President Macron of trade union bashing, adding that the French leader refuses any comment on the huge profits being made by the energy companies and their share-holders.

Right-wing Le Figaro is looking the other way, saying that the government is running scared, having failed to see this disaster on the horizon.

Centrist Le Monde strives for impartiality, reporting the latest offer from the petrol companies, 6 percent for all petrol workers, next year. The strikers want at least 7.5 percent, backdated 12 months.

Le Monde also notes the fear and anger of workers in Normandy who risk being forced to break the strike to refuel the local fleet of police vehicles.

Le Monde says the unions have told members who are officially ordered to return to their posts that they should do so, but union lawyers are preparing to contest the legality of the government decree forcing key personnel to return to work.

'No shortage of petrol'

"At the start of the Covid crisis," chortles the Le Figaro editorial, 'there was no shortage of masks. Now, the same government is assuring motorists that there is no shortage of petrol."

The Le Figaro writer really gets into his stride on the strikers.

"Strikers? They don't merit the term," thunders the aristocratically named Vincent Trémolet de Villers. "They are serial blockers, They claim to speak on behalf of the people, but they make life hell for the rest of us.

"They demand their legal rights at the same time as they interfere with our fundamental right to travel freely.

"They call for equality but are prepared to put the stability of an entire society at risk so they can protect their privileges.

"They act as if they were the victims of a massive injustice when, in fact, they're just a bunch of spolied brats."

Vincent Trémolet de Villers may need to buy a bike.

Macron has other concerns 

Libé says that Emmanuel Macron is attempting to distance himself from the strike and the resulting fuel crisis.

Last night on national TV, the French leader insisted that he has more important fish to fry. With a war in Ukraine, he's not going to waste energy on a trade dispute involving two private companies.

But that did not stop the president from having a go at the CGT trade union, saying "they had to show responsibility and end their attempt to paralyse the entire country.

"They must play by the rules in a sector where a global agreement has already been signed."

The president went on to promise a return to nomal within a week, saying that the government was ready to use the law to force workers back to their jobs.

Not a word, laments Libé, about putting pressure on the oil company bosses to share their extraordinary profits with the workers who make that windfall possible.

Ongoing fight against false promises

Catholic daily La Croix says the unions are calling for an extension of the dispute.

Business paper Les Echos sticks grimly to the facts of company offers and union determination to refuse.

And communist L'Humanité wins the headline prize for "Government and management on a full tank of pressure".

The communist daily says the heroic workers are determined to fight on in the face of the false promises of perfidious management.

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