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French unions abandon blockades

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A man smokes next to a mock coffin that reads 'your retirement' during a demonstration in Bordeaux (AP)

A man smokes next to a mock coffin that reads 'your retirement' during a demonstration in Bordeaux (AP)

A man smokes next to a mock coffin that reads 'your retirement' during a demonstration in Bordeaux (AP)

French unions have abandoned their retirement age protest strikes at all oil refineries and major ports.

Workers have been part of nationwide demonstrations over a government plan to raise the retirement age to 62.

Staff at the last four oil refineries still on strike voted to return, the CFDT union said.

At one point during the action all 12 refineries were shut, leaving drivers struggling to find fuel.

It could take days, perhaps even a week, to get refineries up to full speed to produce fuel after the lengthy shutdowns.

The protest movement has been losing steam after parliament this week approved the plan to change the retirement age from 60 to 62.

President Nicolas Sarkozy refused to back down despite two weeks of strikes that cancelled trains, and shut the refineries.

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The CGT union, meanwhile, said strikers at Marseille's oil terminals also voted to end their protest that has blocked the port for about a month, leaving 80 ships stranded at sea. Workers in the port of Le Havre were also ending their protest.

Marseille has been particularly hard-hit by the strike movement. The city is still clearing 9,000 tons of rubbish that piled up on sidewalks with a weeks-long binmen's strike.

France's plan to raise the retirement age now looks almost certain to become law. It still must go before a council that will rule on whether it is constitutional.


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