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Fears of fuel shortages are growing in France due to refinery strikes

Workers are on strike at Esso and TotalEnergies, which together produce 85% of the energy in France

A photo of a TotalEnergies petrol station roof against blue sky

Petrol stations run by TotalEnergies and Esso could face fuel shortages in France as production levels and supply are hit by strikes Pic: ricochet64 / Shutterstock

Fears of a fuel shortage at petrol stations are growing in France due to worker strikes at Esso and TotalEnergies fuel refineries with some stations already suffering from a lack of supply.

Petrol stations in Marseille have announced a shortage of stock over the past few days after strike announcements were posted by workers at Esso and Total refineries in Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône).

Shortages have been reported for Unleaded 95 and 98 at petrol stations around the city.

Strike notices

At the Esso refinery, administrative staff and the leadership team are joint in their wish to strike with the social movement beginning at the start of last week.

This is in addition to this Thursday’s (September 29) national ‘spending power’ strike.

Read more: Four questions about Thursday’s ‘spending power’ strikes in France

The prominent CGT union called for the action, which was then supported by the FO. Workers are calling for a 7% increase in salary, in contrast to the management team, which is offering a lower amount of 5.5-6%.

Workers are also calling for a restart in hiring and a “massive investment plan” across France.

In total, more than 35,000 staff members at TotalEnergies may be affected by the strikes.

Lionel Arbiol, CGT general secretary at the Esso refinery, told France 3: “Our management generates astronomical sums of money [and is] a major oil provider that is still not capable of giving increases [to employees] to compensate for the drop in purchasing power.”

Total staff posted a notice to strike from today (September 27) to September 29, also to demand a higher salary increase. They are threatening to block service stations from resupply.

The main sites concerned include the bio-refinery La Mède, in Bouches-du-Rhône. 

In case of a strong strike turnout, CGT central delegate Benjamin Tange, from the TotalEnergies petrochemical refinery, estimated that production could drop by 20-30%.

He told La Dépêche: “We are calling for no products to leave the refineries [during the strike] in areas where the CGT is stationed.

“Staff have extremely low salaries and there is a need to reevaluate them in light of the group’s profits.”

The refineries affected include: 

  • La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône), 
  • Le Havre and Donges (Loire-Atlantique)
  • Carling (Moselle)
  • Feyzin (Rhône)
  • Oudalle (Seine-Maritime)
  • The fuel depots in Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne) and Flandres (Nord)

A ‘run’ on petrol stations 

Fears over shortages and the consequences of strikes have caused some petrol stations to see drivers rushing to the pumps, especially in Marseille.

However, Esso has said that for the moment, there are no shortages in their stations, depending on existing supply.

Between them, Esso and Total represent 85% of petrol production in France.

Fuel in France is now benefitting from a government 30-cent rebate at the pumps, augmented further by Total’s extra 20-cent discount in its own service stations. This discount announcement caused queues to form at some petrol stations, which itself caused a shortage of supply in some areas.

Read more: French fuel discounts: long queues form at Total petrol stations 

Read more: Fuel prices in France: TotalEnergies to offer an extra 10 centimes off 

The Total rebate is set to last until October 31, and drop to 10 cents in November and December.  The government rebate will remain at 30 cents per litre until November, when it will drop to 10 cents, and disappear completely (at the time of writing) on December 31.

You can check the price and availability of fuel at petrol stations across France via this interactive map on the dedicated government website.

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How the French government fuel discount will change from September 1

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