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Turmoil continues in France as nationwide strike extends through weekend

December 09/2019

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The most serious nationwide strike to hit France in years caused new weekend travel turmoil on Saturday, with unions warning the walkouts would last well into next week, reported France24.

The challenge thrown to President Emmanuel Macron over his plans for radical pension reform has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets and key transport services brought to a standstill.

The strikes, which began on Thursday, have recalled the winter of 1995, when three weeks of huge stoppages forced a social policy U-turn by the then-government.

Unions have vowed a second series of mass demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday after big rallies on Thursday and there is expected to be little easing of the transport freezes over the coming days.

The strikes could prove to be the biggest domestic challenge yet for Macron, who came to power in 2017 on the back of promises to radically reform France and has sought a prominent place on the international stage as Europes number one statesman.

Macron was widely believed to have ridden out the challenge posed by the "yellow vests" whose weekly Saturday protests against inequality in France had shaken the government over the last year.

With Macron seeking for now to rise above the fray, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government would not abandon the plan even if it was prepared to bring it in more gradually.

He said the government would work with trade unions to introduce a single points-based pension scheme that would require the French to work a bit longer and replace dozens of more advantageous plans currently enjoyed by public-sector workers.

But the premier emphasised that the changes, which he said would be unveiled on Wednesday, were going to be introduced "progressively, without harshness".

Businesses feared that the lack of transport would affect shopping activity on a key weekend for the consumer economy just two weeks before Christmas.

Unions say Macrons proposal for a single pension system would force millions of people in both the public and private sectors to work well beyond the official retirement age of 62.

At least 800,000 took part in rallies around the country on Thursday, according to the interior ministry - one of the biggest demonstrations of union strength in nearly a decade.

Another day of strikes and rallies has been called for Tuesday, a day after union leaders are to meet again with government officials over the pension reform.

As MRC informed earlier, staff at seven of France's eight refineries joined a general strike Thursday, affecting oil product deliveries. Thus, Total reported difficulties in accessing its terminals at the Gonfreville, Grandpuits, Donges and Feyzin refineries and La Mede biofuels plant Thursday morning. In addition, access had been difficult to the terminals at Portes-les-Valence and Puget-sur-Argens. Total said, with 200 oil terminals in France, supply to its retail stations had not been affected, despite the blockades. At the same time, ExxonMobil, which operates the Gravenchon refinery near Le Havre and the Fos-sur-Mer plant in the south, said Gravenchon had not been hit by the strike, but there had been a minor impact on road traffic due to external blockades around the site.

We also remind that France's Feyzin refinery was in the process of halting units and the steam cracker was running at reduced rates on 9 October, 2019. Local media had reported earlier that the refinery had been halting operations since Monday, 7 October, due to a strike. The company said it regrets the decision by labor unions to call a strike while discussions were ongoing with refinery staff about a planned indefinite closure of a unit due to lower product demand.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,724,670 tonnes in the first ten months of 2019, up by 7% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. The estimated PP consumption in the Russian market in January-October 2019 totalled 1,066,520 tonnes, up by 7% year on year. Supply of block copolymers of propylene (PP block copolymer) and homopolymer of propylene (homopolymer PP) increased, demand for statistical copolymers (PP random copolymer) decreased.
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, crude and gaz condensate, PP block copolymer, homopolymer PP, PP random copolymer, propylene, ethylene, petrochemistry, Exxon Mobil, Total Petrochemicals, Russia, France.
Category:General News
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