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PHOTO GALLERY: French union leads new anti-reform protests, seeks to maintain momentum


France
Workers and union members gather in Saint-Nazaire, western France, to demonstrate against the government's planned labour law reforms on May 26, 2016 (AFP)
France
A striking French CGT labour union employee stands near a barricade to block the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the the governments proposed labor law reforms in Donges, France, May 26, 2016 (Reuters)
France
Employees and unionists demonstrate in Le Havre northwestern France, on May 26, 2016, to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms (AFP)
France
A riot police officer sprays pepper spray at unionists protesting against the government's proposed labour reform on May 25, 2016 in Marseille, southeastern France (AFP)
France
A protester holds up his fist as riot police prepare to intervene to disperse refinery worker holding a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms, on May 25, 2016 (AFP)
France
Riot police prepare to intervene to disperse refinery worker holding a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms, on May 25, 2016 (AFP)
France
Employees and CGT union members distribut leaflet at the entrance of the Chinon nuclear power station to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms on May 26, 2016 in Avoine, central France (AFP)
France
A women hold up a sign that reads "walk or die" as members of the French union the CGT block the entrance of an industrial zone as they protest against the labour law reforms on May 26, 2016 in Vitrolles in southern France (AFP)
France
Riot police try to disperse unionists protesting against the government's proposed labour reform on May 25, 2016 in Marseille, southeastern France (AFP)
France
Riot police stand guard behind a fire as refinery workers hold a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms, on May 25, 2016 (AFP)
France
Riot police prepare to intervene to disperse refinery worker holding a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms, on May 25, 2016 (AFP)
France
Striking workers block the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France, on May 25, 2016, to protest against the government's planned labour law reforms (AFP)
May
26

France's hardline CGT union sought to choke off power and fuel supplies and hamper the public transport network on Thursday in a showdown with a government that flatly refused to withdraw a contested labour law reform.

As tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, workers responded to the union call by stopping work at oil refineries, nuclear power plants and the railways, as well as erecting road blocks and burning wooden pallets and tyres at key ports like Le Havre and near key distribution hubs.

The standoff, which raises the spectre of disruption during the France-hosted European soccer tournament that opens on June 10, was condemned both by Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the country's other big trade union, the CFDT.

After months of rolling protests sparked by a reform that aims to make hiring and firing easier, Thursday's stoppages and street marches were being watched closely as a test of whether the CGT-led opposition is solid or at risk of fizzling out.

The street marches were joined by scores of marchers from a youth protest movement called Nuit Debout (Up All Night). Police deployed to counter risks of the severe fringe violence in which 350 police and several protesters have been hurt and more than 1,300 arrested at similar rallies in recent weeks.

CGT chief Philippe Martinez, asked by Reuters if his union was willing to distrupt the Euro 2016 soccer contest, said: "The government will has the time to say 'let's stop the clock' and everything will be ok."

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