Workers at 16 of France’s 19 nuclear plants voted Wednesday day to strike as part of widespread protests over labour reforms as a stand-off between the government and unions escalated.
In the past week French workers led by the CGT have blocked oil refineries around the country in protest at the planned reforms aimed at making it easier for firms to hire and fire, which has led to fuel shortages in large parts of the country and long queues of cars at near-empty petrol stations.
CGT energy and mining federation spokeswoman Marie-Claire Cailletaud said the strike action at nuclear plants, set to start Wednesday evening at 20.00Paris time (1800 GMT), will reduce power output, but the reactors will not stop running.
“One cannot just turn off a nuclear plant, it is not like a thermal or hydro plant,”
Staff in at least four fossil fuel-fired plants have also voted to strike, she added.
Faced with shortages at dozens of petrol stations,France has also mobilised its emergency motor fuel stocks for the first time since 2010, but officials said there was no underlying shortage, and no risk of one.
Ministers went on radio morning shows to say the government would stand firm, while CGT chief Philippe Martinez told RTL radio that his union, one of the most powerful in France, would press on with its strikes.