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Fuel Shortages as France’s Hard Left Unions Bring Nation To its Knees

PARIS (AP) — France’s nationwide fuel shortages — the consequence of a bare-knuckle dispute over labor reforms which have pit militant unions against the government — are easing amid signs that both sides may be seeking a compromise.

Fuel shortages that have led to long lines at the pump are dissipating, the country’s junior transport minister, Alain Vidalies, told journalists Saturday, although he warned that the crisis wasn’t over and unions, including the far left CGT, have promised even more dramatic action next week.

Some union-watchers say both sides have dropped hints that they’re looking for a way out of the confrontation.

“We’re looking at a return to the negotiating table,” said Dominique Andolfatto, a professor of political science at the University of Burgundy and the author of a book on the sociology of French unions.

He noted that CGT boss Philippe Martinez said he wanted to meet President Francois Hollande and highlighted recent statements from French ministers which suggested aspects of their reforms were open for renegotiation.

“They’re thinking, on both sides, about solutions that can help them save face,” Andolfatto said.

Panic at the pump has been among the most serious effects of weeks of French labor action, which has shuttered refineries, blocked fuel depots and disrupted travel across the country. There are increasing worries that the strikes will interfere with football’s European Championship in mid-June.

France’s Socialist government says the labor reforms are needed to reduce France’s persistently high unemployment rate. The CGT and other left-wingers say the new measures will tear apart the country’s social safety net without generating real work.

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