British motorists are caught up in long queues for fuel as hundreds of pumps are forced to close amid a protest over labour laws.

France runs out of petrol

British drivers have become stranded after French petrol stations ran out of fuel amid a strike affecting oil refineries.

The AA says it has received several calls from motorists needing assistance after 1,600 petrol stations shut across the country.

Six of France’s eight refineries are currently closed as a result of industrial action, with activists holding protests outside.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice with a warning over fuel rationing in parts of northern and north-west France.

 

AA president Edmund King said: “AA breakdown services in Europe have been taking calls from UK drivers this morning who have run out of fuel.

“We are recovering vehicles stuck at the side of the road to places of safety until fuel supplies are resumed.”

The blockades are the latest action in months of protests against proposed changes to France’s labour laws, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

The government pushed through a new bill on 10 May without having a vote in parliament.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the government would do what it could to end the blockades, moving the strikers if necessary.

“We are determined there will be no shortages in France,” BFM TV reported him as saying, during a visit to Israel.

“We will continue to clear a number of sites, including the depots.”

Le Point reported that out of France’s 12,000 service stations, 816 are completely out of fuel and a further 800 did not have one type of fuel.

Transport Secretary Alain Vidal told Europe 1 radio that in the worst affected towns and cities, just 60% of the service stations are open.

Last week, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters as dozens of people were arrested.

The main action is being organised by the CGT union (General Confederation of Labour).

Departmental secretary of the CGT Maxime Picard, who was one of those taking part in a 500-strong blockade of a fuel depot at Fos-sur-Mer, about 20 miles (32km) west of Marseille, told Le Point: “We want the withdrawal of the Labour Law.”

President Francois Holland was determined to push through the legislation because he believes liberalising the labour market is the only way to tackle France’s unemployment problem.

The new laws allow some employees to work far longer than the 35-hour week set down in previous legislation and make it easier to fire workers when companies run into economic difficulties.

The row over the reforms has plunged Mr Hollande’s administration into crisis, forcing it to win a ‘no confidence’ vote.

The confidence vote came after Mr Valls invoked a rarely used clause in France’s constitution, which allows reform by decree, to push through the bill which updates France’s existing 3,000-page Code de Travail (Employment Rules), which has been described as “bloated” and “unreadable”.