Shortage of Fuel: “If they Release us, we will go Elsewhere” … The Blockages will not Stop

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Shortage of fuel: "If they release us, we will go elsewhere" ... The blockages will not stop

PROTESTS: After the failure of the motion of censure, unions and opponents of the pension reform know that the week is decisive to obtain the withdrawal of the law

  • The Vern-sur-Seiche fuel depot, near Rennes, is paralyzed by demonstrators opposed to pension reform.
  • As the gasoline shortage slowly sets in, union activists believe that the pressure on the government must be maintained.
  • The failure of Monday’s censure motion did not affect the motivation of opponents, who are betting big on Thursday’s demonstration.

EDIT OF 03/22: The fuel depot was unblocked by the police on the morning of March 22. Smooth and calm. 

They are only a dozen seated a hundred meters from the entrance to the Total depot. They are neither armed nor hooded and even offer us a coffee. “They just brought us some. With extra pancakes. “At the corner of a meagre fire where a single log is burning, this handful of union activists alone blocks a good part of the fuel supply of Brittany. The consequences can be read right behind them. The Total station installed a few meters from the Vern-sur-Seiche fuel depot (Ille-et-Vilaine) is almost dry. In the neighbouring town of Rennes, the situation is the same. All the stations that could not be refuelled saw their stocks of petrol and diesel dry up over the hours under the panic effect of a population in desperate search of fuel. In some stations, guns no longer spit a drop. “We knew that by coming there we would embarrass them. Cutting the means of transport is one of our means of exerting pressure. And that’s exactly what we’re here for.” All are here to fight against the pension reform, adopted thanks to a highly contested 49.3.

A French teacher in a college in Rennes, Justine Marti has been on strike since March 7. A member of the Force Ouvrière union, she is one of the “blockers” of the Vern depot. Located a few kilometres south of Rennes, the site usually supplies a good part of the tank trucks in Brittany. Except that since Monday morning at 4:45 a.m., no heavy goods vehicle can enter or leave the platform operated by Total. “It’s not the first time we’ve been here, it’s a classic. But there, we feel that we have strong support. There are a few disgruntled people but we feel that we have a convergence of struggles, ”engages Philippe Massé, FO delegate who works at the Ministry of the Armed Forces. On the four-lane whistling just next door, we regularly hear horns ringing to support the mobilized comrades. “It makes us feel good” we recognize without hesitation. Here, we organize ourselves “in three 8” to be able to hold the blockade of the oil site. Until when? “Maybe not very long. We know that they can come and dislodge us when they want, ”slip the demonstrators present.

Think of other courses of action

A grid is placed on the barbecue and some sausages and merguez are thrown for lunch. Behind, the banners made with old white sheets float in the wind. Here as elsewhere, anger is brewing in the face of a government “which does not listen to its people”. All the women and men say they are determined to fight “until the end”.

“We felt that there was a little wavering but the 49.3 reboosted everyone. By doing this, the government has cut the rules of democracy, it has sent a strong message to citizens. Our way of fighting is to cut the economy, to generalize the strike.”

This representative of the CGT Cheminots is on the initiative of blocking the fuel depot, which she considers to be “a symbol”. What if the site was unblocked by law enforcement? “He probably will be. But if they take us from here, we’ll go somewhere else. We will not stop there, ”continues the railway worker. He pleads for new modes of action. “We have to be reactive, inventive, that we continue the fight by going where we are not expected.”

The Vern-sur-Seiche fuel depot, near Rennes, has been blocked by opponents of the pension reform since March 20, 2023.
The Vern-sur-Seiche fuel depot, near Rennes, has been blocked by opponents of the pension reform since March 20, 2023. – C. Allain

But for how long? While some have been on strike for a fortnight, a slowdown in the movement would not be surprising. Especially after the failure of the censure motion by nine votes on Monday. “Anyway, we knew it wouldn’t pass.” Here, as in the ranks of the police, fatigue is felt. The coffee may be tight, the faces remain marked by these days and nights of struggle. “I get up every day at 4 a.m. for actions. I would prefer to be in class with my students, believe me, ”recalls Justine Marti.

“The fight has only just begun”

In the ranks of his union, everyone dreams of a general strike that would paralyze the economy for several days. “We have no other choice. Mobilization is essential if we want to obtain the withdrawal, ”continues the teacher.

Emmanuel Macron’s speech on Wednesday at 1 p.m.? They don’t expect anything. Under the frail tent which serves as their shelter, all the militants gathered think only of the demonstration on Thursday. “It will be the cursor of the mobilization. We will know what the continuation of the movement will be able to give, ”estimates the representative of the CGT. In the meantime, we will have to “hold” the blockage. A woman rekindles the fire with a few pieces of wood. At nightfall, all over the country, whole pallets are in danger of catching fire. For many, “the fight has only just begun”.

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