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Fuel supplies improve in France, strike lifts in three refineries

Protest action however continues in two other French refineries. What is the situation in French petrol stations now?

Strikes have been lifted in three French refineries, as fuel supplies improve across the country Pic: olrat / Shutterstock

[Update October 20 at 14:45 - The strike at the Gonfreville refinery has been renewed for the next week (until October 27) "unless the management contact us beforehand", the CGT has said.]

The three-week long strikes at TotalEnergies refineries around France have been lifted at three sites and fuel supplies are improving across the country. 

Industry action has ended at Flandres, La Mède and Donges - however staff at two other refineries in Gonfreville and Feyzin have decided to continue striking. 

CGT union delegate Pedro Afonso said that workers at these refineries “will not lift the strike while there is nothing concrete on the table” in terms of salary proposals from the management.  

“The strikers are not there to make things difficult for citizens and customers [...] but [...] to try to obtain legitimate demands.”

TotalEnergies has said that an agreement on pay was reached on Friday (October 14) with two other unions, the CFE-CGC and the CFDT – an agreement that the CGT did not sign – and that “negotiations are therefore over”. 

This agreement includes a general 5% salary increase, along with pay rises handed out on an individual basis and an exceptional bonus of €3,000 to €6,000. The CGT wanted a 10% pay rise to account for inflation and distribute the $10.6billion the company made in profits in the first half of this year. 

The government launched a réquisition order at Feyzin yesterday, obliging some 20 employees to return to work so that a minimum service could be provided. 

A member of the CGT union said that the strike had caused a “psychological fatigue”, and that government réquisitions “weighed on morale, with police forces [being deployed] among staff”. 

What is the situation in French petrol stations?

By yesterday afternoon (October 19), 20.3% of petrol stations were experiencing shortages of at least one type of fuel, compared to 24.8% on Tuesday and 30% on Sunday. 

Certain regions are still struggling more than others, including Bourgogne-Franche-Comté – where 33.1% of stations are experiencing shortages – Ile-de-France (30.5%) and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (29.4%). 

The map below reflects the proportion of petrol stations where there are shortages of at least one type of fuel in each region. 

Even as the strike ends in several refineries, “the difficulty is supplying France’s 200 depots”, Francis Pousse of the professional union Mobilians told BFMTV.

Regions such as Bourgogne-France-Comté and Occitanie are mostly supplied by rail, and the trains which serve them have been blocked in refineries, making it more difficult to get fuel to petrol stations. 

Trains also only operate on certain days of the week, so when drivers who are worried about being able to fill up rush to petrol stations, shortages can easily occur.

Fuel can be delivered using lorries, but they can only transport about 35 tonnes, while a train can carry 1,000 to 1,500.

Mobilians has said that: “We will have to wait 15 to 20 days before a true return to normal, that is, a situation in which all petrol stations are stocked to normal levels.” 

At the beginning of the strikes, Hauts-de-France was the worst affected region, with one in two petrol stations in difficulty, but now this only applies to 15.3%.

It was a government réquisition at the Mardyck depot near Dunkirk that helped to calm the situation in this region.

Related articles 

French fuel shortages: strikers to vote on whether to continue

Updated fuel map: how are petrol stocks near you in France?

French fuel shortage: How to check stocks at your local petrol station

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