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French fuel shortages: Progress made to end strikes but no deal yet

Strikes at five oil refineries are causing huge fuel shortages around the country – the latest round of talks has led to a breakthrough, but not everyone is happy

Almost a third of petrol stations in France are experiences shortages of some kind Pic: Leitenberger Photography / Shutterstock

An agreement over increases to worker salaries at oil refineries in France has been reached during overnight discussions, one of the trade unions representing the staff, the CFDT, announced this morning (October 14). 

It involves a 7% wage hike and a bonus of between €3,000 to €6,000, according to the CFDT representative in charge of negotiating on behalf of TotalEnergies employees. 

Another union, the CFE-CGC, appears ready to agree to this proposal. The CFDT and CFE-CGC represent 56% of the workers involved in strikes taking place at five oil refineries in France. 

The CFDT must still put this offer to its members. 

Representatives of another union, the CGT, walked out of the overnight meetings, declaring the proposals “largely insufficient”. The CGT general secretary of the TotalEnergies Normandie plant, Alexis Antonioli, has said that members of the CGT union will continue to strike.

The CGT are holding out for at least a 10% wage increase, plus bonuses.

The CFDT is expected to put the offer to its members before midday today. It is not known if it will be accepted. 

Strikes are continuing at half of France’s eight refineries. The industrial action, which has been going on for several weeks, has led to huge fuel shortages around the country. 

Strikes are taking place at refineries owned by both Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies. 

The walkout at the Esso-ExxonMobil refinery at Port-Jérôme-Gravenchon (Seine-Maritime) appears to be over, at least temporarily, after workers’ union Force ouvrière (FO) said the staff had decided to return to work this morning. 

News agency Agence France-Presse reports that the staff have given an ultimatum to management over salary talks to be held in December. They are also expected to vote later this afternoon on whether to resume striking. 

A walkout at another refinery, the Esso-ExxonMobil refinery in Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône), ended yesterday. 

Read more: Fuel shortages: strike action to end at refinery in southern France

At around 17:00 on Thursday, 29.1% of petrol stations in France were out of one or several types of fuel, the energy transition ministry reported. In Centre Val-de-Loire, this figure was as high as 44.7%. 

The government has opened up strategic stocks of fuel to supplement stations’ supplies. 

They have also extended the permission for tankers to operate at the weekend to supply stations – in general in France it is forbidden to drive heavy goods vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes on weekends. 

Despite the progress in negotiations between unions and the management of Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies, the discontent sewn by the strikes has spread to other sectors. 

Calls have been made for a general strike to take place on Tuesday next week (October 18). 

Read more: French fuel shortages: Union calls for wider national strike next week

This could involve civil servants, SNCF workers and RATP staff, meaning that transport is likely to be heavily impacted. 

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