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French protests disrupt output at Total's Grandpuits refinery

PARIS (Reuters) - Total’s Grandpuits refinery near Paris is producing at a reduced rate after the CGT union voted to halt output as part of nationwide protests against a pensions reforms, the French energy company said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind the chimneys of the Total Grandpuits oil refinery southeast of Paris, France, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

A Total spokesman said the 102,000 barrels-per-day refinery would continue to produce until Dec. 30 when the union will hold another general assembly meeting.

It can take several days to securely shut down refinery operations, while Total may be able to keep it running for a short period by using rotating teams of non-unionised workers.

The spokesman said three of Total’s other refineries in France - Normandy, Feyzin and Donges - were operating normally on Tuesday, with products leaving the refineries.

At its La Mede biorefinery, products were still being blocked from leaving due to the industrial action.

The spokesman said products supply to Total’s petrol stations were improving with just 90 stations running dry compared with 114 the previous day.

The hardline CGT trade union has vowed to ramp up protest action, particularly in the oil sector and including shutting down oil facilities, to try to force the government to withdraw the planned reforms.

French Ecology and Energy Ministry reiterated on Tuesday that six of France’s seven crude oil refineries were producing and distributing normally, and only Grandpuits was facing difficulties shipping its products.

“French oil logistics is robust because of a dense network of 200 depots, linked to refineries by pipelines, river barges, or rail, and distribution by trucks for the last kilometers to service stations,” the ministry said in a statement.

It added that only two depots were facing supply difficulties.

“There is therefore no cause for concern,” it said, cautioning drivers against rushing to fill up tanks. The ministry said French oil stocks were at a good level.

Industrial action against President Emmanuel Macron’s reforms has also crippled train services over the past two weeks.

The action, which started on Dec. 5, has cost French national railway company SNCF around 400 million euros ($443 million), CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou, told Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s office said it would restart talks with unions on pension reform on Jan. 7. Separate talks will also be held with teachers’ and hospital workers’ unions from Jan. 13, the government said.

Unions have already scheduled more demonstrations for Jan. 9 against the reforms, which would scrap special regimes for sectors like the railways and make people work to 64 to draw a full pension.

($1 = 0.9023 euros)

Reporting by Bate Felix; Writing by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by John Irish and Mark Potter