Some three million people took to the streets throughout France on Saturday to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pension reform, unions said, as a strike by transport and oil refinery workers went into its fifth day.
As usual, the Interior Ministry saw substantially fewer demonstrators in the streets, saying in a statement that about 825,000 people protested against the reform.
The demonstrations in some 260 cities took place as strikes at all 12 of France’s refineries raised fears that airports would soon run out of fuel.
On Friday, fuel stopped running through a pipeline feeding Paris’s two major airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
While Orly has reserves for 17 days, the stockpiled fuel at Charles de Gaulle could run dry by Monday or Tuesday, the junior minister for transport, Dominique Bussereau, said.
However, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told RTL radio Saturday that the government has options to provide them with fuel.
“We are confident,” she added.
Railway traffic remained disrupted throughout the country, with about half of all scheduled trains not operating Saturday, the state— run rail network SNCF said.
The pension reform would gradually raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 by the year 2018. It has already passed the National Assembly and is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate on Wednesday.
Unions have called for another nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday, just ahead of the Senate vote.