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Fresh strikes in France as nuclear workers join protest

Protests against labour law changes seen as "too pro-business" continue, forcing nation to use emergency fuel reserves.

Nuclear power station

Nuclear power station workers in France have voted to join the protests against labour law changes that have forced the country to tap into its strategic fuel reserves due to refinery blockades.

After the CGT union workers joined the rolling nationwide strike, French nuclear power capacity was cut by at least four gigawatts (GW) on Thursday, according to the website of RTE, a grid operator.

At least nine nuclear reactors reported unplanned outages after the workers' vote on Wednesday evening, according to RTE's website.

Pressure is rising on the French government as queues at petrol stations lengthen by the day and with football fans due to flood into the country in two weeks for the Euro 2016 championships.

The strikes and protests are against a labour bill that extends the working week and makes layoffs easier.

The strike has also paralysed French businesses.

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, has warned the CGT leading the disruption at refineries and fuel depots that it "does not make the law in France".

But union activists remained defiant, burning tyres and blocking a major bridge on the northern French coast.

"If we have to carry on, then we will," Franck Barbay, CGT union representative, said.

"We are not pleased to have lose money but if it is to see this law overturned, then we'd have done what was right."

Fireworks and air horns

Demonstrators gathered early on Thursday morning at a central square in the port town of Harfleur, setting off fireworks and air horns.

The activists then went to the 2km-long Pont de Normandie, which crosses the Seine River at Le Havre, setting a pile of tyres alight and blocking toll booths.

The labour law overhaul they are protesting against is designed to address France's famously rigid labour market by making it easier to hire and fire workers.

Opponents say the changes are too pro-business and will do little to reduce France's jobless rate of around 10 percent.

The country has nearly four months of fuel reserves and President Francois Hollande told a cabinet meeting that "everything will be done to ensure the French people and the economy is supplied".

But with five of France's eight refineries having either stopped or slowed production, shortages are becoming acute in many regions - and spreading to Paris.

READ MORE: Police in France denounce 'anti-cop hatred'

Worried drivers were using online apps to find petrol stations that still had fuel, with many limiting drivers to only 20 litres each.

The Ufip oil industry federation confirmed that with about a third of the country's 12,000 petrol stations running dry, it had begun using strategic reserves.

In some rare good news for Hollande on Wednesday, figures showed a 0.6 percent dip in unemployment in April - the first time the jobless number has shrunk for two consecutive months in the past five years.

Myriam El Khomri, labour minister, said the drop was due to government incentives to boost hiring.

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