Fuel shortages: strike action is renewed at French refineries

The government is now threatening to ‘intervene’ and force striking employees to return to work. Nearly a third of stations report shortages

The refinery strike which is affecting supply at French petrol stations has been renewed today by the CGT and FO unions
Published Last updated

[Update October 11 at 15:30 - Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne has announced that some Esso-ExxonMobil will be required to return to work so that a minimum service can operate.]

The strikes which have been affecting French TotalEnergies and Esso-ExxonMobil refineries since September 27 are continuing today as nearly one third of the country’s fuel stations report supply shortages.

The CGT union renewed the strike action at TotalEnergies refineries and was with the FO union in calling for another day of action for Esso-ExxonMobil employees.

This is despite the fact that the CFDT and CFE/CGC unions have signed an agreement on salaries with the company bosses.

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

CGT spokesperson Christophe Aubert told AFP: “[Strike] action has been renewed this morning at 06:00 because [the company offer] does not line up with the demands of striking employees who want better buying power.”

He added that the CGT is opposed to the fact that the salary increase on the table comes in the form of a bonus rather than a boost to wages in general.

The government has called for striking workers to lift blockades on fuel depots “without delay”, with official spokesperson Olivier Véran saying that the state will intervene if not.

An emergency meeting last night between the prime minister and four other ministers led the government to warn that some employees could be required to return to work so that a minimum-level service is ensured.

The CGT has warned that if the government took this step “it would be war”

“Nicolas Sarkozy committed this illegal act [during another refinery strike in 2010] and France was found guilty in 2011 of having breached Convention 87 of the Organisation internationale du travail [on the right to strike],” said the union’s Emmanuel Lépine.

He added that “there is no barricade preventing the entry and exit of lorries” into refineries.

“I wish the police officers or whoever else would come good luck, we would tell them: ‘go on, get the refinery going again’. It is a very skilled job.”

TotalEnergies has said that it will bring salary negotiations forward by a month from their scheduled start date of November 15 if the strike comes to an end, but unions are refusing to accept this.

“We have been making requests for negotiations to open since March 2022, now we are in October,” Mr Lépine said.

“There was a 24-hour strike at Total in June and then another 48-hour one in July, which did not impact fuel supply and did not elicit a reaction from the management. So, we have arrived at an extreme situation today, stopping the production system to make ourselves heard.”

On Monday evening (October 10), 29.4% of petrol stations were experiencing shortages, Ecological Transition minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said.

After some departmental prefectures decided to ban the filling of jerry cans at local petrol stations, it has now been decided that this temporary restriction will be extended across the country by government decree.

“Don’t stock up, that makes the situation worse,” Ms Pannier-Runacher has said.

Related articles

French fuel shortages worsen: what is outlook for the week ahead?