Violence has briefly broken out at the headquarters of France’s largest company, Total, as several hundred of workers clash with police.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowds, after some 300 of the demonstrators managed to break through a line of riot police and into the company’s offices.
The physical damage was minimal with only a few broken windows.
But the anger felt by disaffected employees has been growing ever since Total announced plans to shut down a refinery at its Dunkirk site in northwest France.
Total managers say the refinery is loosing money because of falling worldwide demand for finished petroleum products and must be closed.
The company has however introduced different initiatives to save some jobs.
“We have about 370 employees in the refinery and we have designed a plan of several job opportunities within the group to each of them. So we are going to fire exactly nobody,” Michel Benezit Total Refineries Director told Press TV.
But these assurances have fallen on deaf ears, with union leaders saying Total has underestimated the number of jobs to go and failed to consider the impact that the closure of the refinery will have on the wider community and sub contractors.
The protesters, who have been striking since January 12, meanwhile believe that Total, an iconic French company has a national responsibility to keep refinery production going on.
According to Press TV’s correspondent in France, this protest is something of an embarrassment to Total, which has some 97,000 employees in more then 130 companies across the world.
There is also a political factor in play, with President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly pressuring Total’s management to try and bring a resolution to this dispute.