More French protests amid fuel shortage fears

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More French protests amid fuel shortage fears

More French protests amid fuel shortage fears
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Protesters took to the streets of France on Saturday to defend their right to retire at 60.

President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to raise the retirement age to 62 by 2018.

Unions say three million people took part, while authorities say turnout was much lower at some 800,000 nationwide.

Labour Minister Eric Woerth told French television that he believed the protests are starting to peter out.

There had been a “significant drop” in the number of people joining the demonstrations, he said.

Striking oil refinery workers are also showing their opposition to the planned reforms by blockading supply routes and major ports.

The country’s 12 refineries remain shut as employees vow to press on with more strikes.

That is putting pressure on supplies and has sparked panic buying.

Some ten percent of the country’s petrol stations were out of fuel as of Saturday evening.

Airports have also been hit by the industrial action. Officials say Paris’s two main hubs, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, could run out of fuel by next week.

President Sarkozy says his reforms will stop the state pension scheme running deeper into the red -it is forecast to have a 32 billion euro deficit by the end of this year.

Sarkozy says the French need to work longer because they are living longer.

The French Senate will vote on the text on October 20. It has already been approved by the lower house of parliament.