French strikers: Viva la fuel

2010-10-22 21:00

Trignac - Striking French oil workers seized a filling station on Friday and gave out free fuel to passing motorists as part of protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms.

Sarkozy has accused strikers, whose actions at refineries and fuel depots have caused serious fuel shortages, of holding ordinary citizens to ransom in their battle to defend the right to retire at 60.

But in Trignac, in western France, workers from oil giant Total's Donges refinery took over one of the firm's retail forecourts and started dispensing petrol free of charge and even washing down car windscreens.

CGT union representative Christophe Priou said his members had first called the fire brigade to fill their engines' tanks as a priority in order to ensure public safety during the strikes, before passing on to members of the public.

Some motorists cheerfully filled their tanks and called their friends to come and take advantage of the protest, while others were unsure how to respond and nervous of making off without paying.

The protest followed tough action at another refinery earlier in the day, when riot police dispersed a protest in order to unblock a fuel depot and the government issued a legal decree ordering strikers back to work.