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French PM Threatens to Force Workers Back as Energy Strikes Continue

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By Baptiste Becquart and Adam Plowright

France’s prime minister warned striking oil industry workers Sunday that the government might once again use its requisition powers to force workers back to their posts to ease fuel shortages. online news

Left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon meanwhile backed calls by some trade unions for a general strike on Tuesday.

Elisabeth Borne told TF1 television that if the situation remained tense Monday, then the authorities would proceed with more requisitions like the ones enforced last week.

About 30 percent of service stations were experiencing supply problems for one type of fuel or another, she said. “That’s too many.”

She appealed to those TotalEnergeies workers still on strike not to “block the country with all the difficulties that that creates”.

After three weeks of industrial action, three out of seven of the country’s oil refineries and five major fuel depots (of around 200) are affected, the government said.

Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, president of the Medef business lobby group, told Radio J that another week of fuel shortages might have a real impact on the economy.

“This isn’t a normal strike,” he added. “The right to strike has limits.”

Farmers are struggling to find the fuel they need to plant their winter crops on time, particularly in the north of the country.

  • ‘General strike’ –

Borne’s warning came after tens of thousands marched through Paris Sunday to protest the rising cost of living, and government inaction over climate change.

The demonstration was called by the left-wing political opposition and led by Melenchon, head of the France Unbowed (LFI) party.

While most of the march passed peacefully, security forces did fire teargas and launched baton charges on several occasions after being pelted with objects. On the fringes of the march, masked men dressed in black ransacked a bank.

Some protesters wore yellow florescent vests, the symbol of the often violent anti-government protests in 2018 that shook the pro-business government of President Emmanuel Macron.

“The people at the top are out of touch,” said Christopher Savidan, an LFI activist out of work for five years.

Paris demonstration in online news & headline news
People gather for a march against the high cost of living and climate inaction in Paris, France, Sunday Oct. 16, 2022. Marchers are demanding wage increases, greater taxation of windfall profits and other steps to lessen the bite of rising inflation, heeding the call of left-wing parties and trade unionists hoping to crank up pressure on the government of French President Emmanuel Macron. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

“We pay taxes — we don’t know why. Everything is going down the drain.”

Opponents of Macron are hoping to build on the momentum created by the refineries dispute, which began at the end of September.

“We’re going to have a week the likes of which we don’t see very often,” Melenchon told the crowd.

“Everything is coming together. We are starting it with this march, which is an immense success.”

Melenchon also called for a “general strike” Tuesday. Some but not all unions have already declared the date a national day of strikes targetting road transport, trains and the public sector.

  • Huge profits –

The huge profits made by energy groups due to record fuel prices have led to some sympathy for employees pushing for higher wages.

But some drivers struggling to find fuel for their vehicles are losing patience. Many companies have cut back on travel and deliveries, and even emergency service vehicles face shortages.

A poll by the BVA polling group released Friday suggested that only 37 percent of people supported the stoppages.

The strikes and protests are being closely watched by the government, which is aiming to pass a highly controversial change to the pensions system in the next few months.

Macron, who won re-election in April, has pledged to push back the retirement age from 62, with the reform scheduled before the end of the winter.

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“I’m really worried,” one ruling party MP told AFP last week on condition of anonymity. “We need to find a route between the need for reforms and the fact that people are riled up and tired.”

TotalEnergies announced on Friday that it had reached a pay deal with the two largest unions representing staff at its refineries, raising hopes of an end to the standoff.

But the hardline CGT union has refused to accept it, with its members continuing to maintain picket lines.


© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.

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Notes from APS Radio News

From the early part of March 2020 to April 15, 2022, the US Federal Reserve had been increasing its holdings by nearly $5 trillion dollars.

It did this each month of that period by buying billions of dollars of corporation and government bonds, in effect, infusing massive amounts of money into the economy.

And, as the FRED graph shows, it did so at rapid rate or at a high rate of velocity.

Economists say that when massive amoutns of fiat money are infused into the economy at high rates of velocity, the likelihood of noticeably higher rates of inflation is made greater.

A number of other central banks followed a similar policy.

For example, between late February 2020, even days before the media started fixating on the virus thingy, and March of this year, the European Central Bank embarked on its own version of monetary expansion.

During that period, the ECB increased its holdings by over 5 trillion euros.

The Bank of Japan also increased its holdings.

Between February of 2020 and earlier this year, it had increased its holding by a few hundred trillion Yen.

For a number of years, including the Bank of Japan, major central banks have kept their interest rates low.

For its part, the Bank of Japan kept its interest rates at negative rates, meaning that depositors had to pay banks to hold their money.

During and before the pandemic, major corporations had increased the number of mergers and acquisitions, as those entities were able to make their purchases using inexpensive money and higher stock valuations.

The other part of the equation was that of supply.

As a result of lockdowns, many small and medium-sized businesses were closed.

Shipping ports had lost workers, and truck drivers going to those ports had to wait in long lines, as a result.

In effect, well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shortages of various goods and services developed.

The invasion and sanctions imposed have aggravated shortages of commodities like petroleum and grain.

And there have been instances of price gouging.

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Commentary & News Online
APS Radio News

Thousands of people are marching in Paris against the rising cost of living called by left-wing political parties and backed by hundreds of associations, which are seeking to build on the momentum created by the refinery standoff which began at the end of September.