Strikes continue in French refineries, disrupt fuel supplies
PARIS (AP) — Continuing strikes at TotalEnergies group refineries in France seriously disrupted fuel supplies Friday after the left-wing CGT union rejected a deal over a pay increase that two other unions had agreed to.
Long lines of cars could be seen across France as motorists waited — sometimes for hours — to fill up. Many gas stations have temporarily closed while awaiting deliveries. About 30% of France’s gas stations are experiencing temporary shortages, with the Paris area and northern France most affected.
The CFDT and CFE-CGC unions, which together represent a majority of the group’s French workers, agreed overnight to a 7% pay rise and a financial bonus. But the CGT rejected the deal, holding out for a 10% pay rise.
Strikers are demanding higher wages from what they feel should be their share of windfall profits generated by high oil and gas prices amid the global energy crisis aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Total said in a statement Friday that in line with the majority agreement it will increase salaries for all its employees in France in 2023 by 7%, and called for end to the strikes at all its sites. The company also said it will pay out in December a bonus one-month salary — between 3,000 and 6,000 euros — to its employees around the world in an attempt to share its profits from high oil prices.
The CGT called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday across French industry, railway and other sectors to push for salary increases and to protest against the government’s intervention in the refinery strikes.
Separately, strikes at ExxonMobil’s Esso wing in France appeared to be over Friday after the CFDT and CFE-CGC unions reached a salary hike deal earlier this week.
The Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said Friday she was hoping for a return to normality “as quickly as possible,” helped by government-ordered worker requisitions at two fuel depots in western and northern France.
The requisition orders aim at “ensuring that the French get out of that nightmare, that unbearable situation,” Pannier-Runacher said on LCI television.
But several Paris motorists seemed unfazed.
“It’s the French way of doing things,” said Jelena Tourkine, 45, about the disruptions and shortages in the Paris region. Tourkine said she was affected less than others because she drives a hybrid car, although she is getting nervous about finding a charging point if the strike stretches into next week.
Joachim Souza, 74, made a second attempt to fill up his tank after waiting in line for fuel all Thursday afternoon — only for the pump to dry up and shut down shortly before his turn. Despite queueing for two hours at a Paris gas station Friday, he showed understanding for the strikers.
“They are right to be on strike but I think the management has not made enough of an effort” to meet strikers’ demands, the 74-year-old retiree said. “I was a boss once and I know that we have to share a bit.”