Scuffles break out as protesters occupy Paris's Gare de Lyon station
Nationwide industrial action against pension system reform enters it's 19th day
Protesters scuffled with police at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris on Monday as a nationwide rail workers strike against plans by French President Emmanuel Macron to change the country's pension system dragged on into a 19th day.
French TV station BFM showed footage of riot police tangling with around 30 protesters at the Gare de Lyon, one of the French capital's busiest stations and often used for travel to ski resorts in the Alps.
Protesters let off flares and fireworks, releasing smoke that drifted down into the station concourse.
The walkouts, which have disrupted Christmas preparations, have also affected other main Paris stations such as the Gare du Nord, which handles the Eurostar services to London and Brussels, and the Gare de l'Est.
"I understand [the strike] but I am not OK with it as I think all French people are being held hostage and it is difficult for us to understand what the goal is," said Damien Dremont, a commuter at the Gare de L'Est.
Two weeks of nationwide industrial action against Macron's pension reform, which would scrap special pensions for many public sector staff and make people work to age 64 to draw a full pension, have crippled France's transport network.
Oil sector strikes
The General Confederation of Labour (known by the French acronym CGT) trade union, which has been at the forefront of the industrial action, has said there will be no truce over Christmas and it will ramp up protests and shutdowns, particularly in the oil sector.
CGT's members were holding votes at refineries, oil depots and terminals on Monday to decide whether to shut down production at their plants as part of the protest.
A CGT union official said members voted on Monday to stop production at the LyondellBasell petrochemical complex in the south of France. Union members are expected to vote on whether to halt production at Total's Grandpuits refinery later on Monday.
LyondellBasell could not be reached for comment.
Shutdown procedure started early on Monday at PetroIneos' Lavera oil refinery in southern France after CGT workers voted to halt operations.
At the CIM oil terminal in northern France, which handles about 40 per cent of French crude imports, CGT members decided to stay on strike but held off shutting down operations which would have cut crude deliveries to refineries and jet fuel to airports.
Although the protests have disrupted deliveries, only about two per cent of France's 11,000 petrol stations have run dry, according to oil sector lobby French Association of Petroleum Industry (UFIP).
In a bid to defuse the public anger, Macron over the weekend decided to forgo a special presidential pension payout when he eventually steps down.