• Industry group says trucks can’t deliver building materials
  • Strikes costing EU10 million a week to suppliers: Unicem

French construction projects are facing disruptions as the effects of a 10-day strike at refineries and fuel depots start to hurt the wider economy, according to suppliers of building materials.

Deliveries to building sites of materials including concrete and bitumen have been halted due to fuel shortages, leading to losses of as much as 10 million euros ($11 million) a week, Arnaud Colson, vice-president of the French Union for Quarrying and Construction Materials Industries, known as Unicem, said Monday by phone.

"All our clients have been impacted," he said. "Many construction sites have been halted or delayed."

More than a week after French unions voted to start strikes at crude-processing plants to protest a planned labor reform, drivers are struggling to fill their tanks in some regions where gas stations have run out of fuel. The labor strife could intensify this week to include the Paris metro, French railway and air traffic controllers. Disruptions at construction sites come as the industry was starting to see the first signs of recovery from a downturn.

Crisis

"We felt a light recovery in orders and construction permits," Colson said. "A crisis like this could stop everything."

Volumes in the building material industry have declined 35 percent in the past four years, according to Unicem. Without taking the effects of the ongoing strike into account, the union had forecast stable volumes in 2016.

The ready-mixed concrete industry, which relies on low stocks, is particularly hard hit by the problems with deliveries, Colson said. Blockades at Le Havre port, a key import facility in northwest France, are preventing the unloading and shipment of aggregate.

President Francois Hollande’s government has vowed to push through the labor reform despite the strikes and opposition from within the ranks of his own Socialist Party lawmakers. It ordered police on Monday to remove barricades to allow tanker trucks to access some fuel depots and make deliveries. Total SA, which operates five of France’s eight refineries, said Monday that 653 out of its 2,200 service stations were partly or totally out of gas, down from 784 on Thursday.

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