French refinery workers strike against government threats – Expat Guide to France

Striking French oil refinery workers voted Wednesday to keep the lockdown in place for three weeks.

Industrial action for higher wages has paralyzed six of France’s seven fuel refineries, leading to gasoline and diesel shortages exacerbated by panic-buying drivers.

But President Emmanuel Macron vowed in a television interview that things would return to normal “next week”.

The government has previously threatened to use its emergency powers to order essential workers not to suffer fines or prison sentences, and on Wednesday it announced it would do so.

Officials said the Esso-Exxon-Mobil fuel depot in northwestern France and another fuel depot belonging to Total Energies in the northeast would be the first places workers would be “requisitioned.”

Long queues of fuel-hungry motorists once again congested Paris and other major cities.

As of Tuesday evening, 31% of stations nationwide were short of at least one grade of fuel. In the Greater Paris area, the figure was 44%.

Esther Berrebi, the capital’s Home Health Assistant, was attempting a third test at 7:00 am (0500 GMT).

“I am very angry and very worried,” she told AFP. “I understand they want higher salaries, but how can we stop the whole country? I don’t understand why.”

Speaking to broadcaster France 2, Macron warned managers that “it’s important to get back to the table and talk.”

“Even if an agreement is reached between the bosses and some unions, we cannot lock down the country because there are always a few people trying to get things going,” he said.

– Rising frustration –

The far-left CGT union, which is leading the shutdown, said on Tuesday that any requisition was “unnecessary and illegal”, raising the possibility of legal challenges.

Total Energies is seeking a pay hike of 10% for its workforce retroactively through 2022, and management has said it has refused to negotiate.

Jerminal Lancelin, CGT Leader for ExxonMobil at the Gravention Port Jerome Refinery, said:

Earlier Wednesday, Total Energies said it would meet with all union representatives, although it previously claimed it would only meet with those who accepted the end of the lockdown.

Antoine López, 50, enjoying a barbecue with colleagues at a picket outside the Feyzin refinery in eastern France.

Executives agreed to drop demands to end the refinery strike before starting wage negotiations, but still insisted fuel deliveries should resume, according to the CGT’s in-house branch.

CGT head Thierry Defresne told AFP late Wednesday that the striking workers had rejected demands to resume deliveries early Thursday morning.

“We have consulted the striking people and it is a strong and clear refusal and they are unwilling to negotiate this requirement,” Defresne said.

TotalEnergies confirmed the “negative outcome of the discussion.”

– ‘General Strike’ –

While the government has previously been reluctant to foment conflict, in recent days officials have said there is growing frustration and economic damage to drivers spending hours trying to fill up their tanks. I had to admit that

“Gasoline is too important for us. It’s been a nightmare all week,” delivery driver Santiago told AFP in Paris.

Even if key personnel are ordered back to work, it will “take at least two weeks” to restore fuel supplies, said Esso’s CGT representative at the Fos-sur-Mer refinery outside Marseille in the southeast. Gilles Villar, who is in charge, said.

With energy prices and inflation skyrocketing, TotalEnergies’ massive gains have sparked outrage and calls for a windfall tax.

The confrontation could fuel a march planned by left-wing parties on Sunday against President Macron’s policies and high cost of living.

Green Party MP Sandrine Rousseau told Franceinfo radio on Wednesday: “I hope this will be the impetus to start a general strike.”

The industrial action comes as President Macron prepares to push for a controversial pension overhaul by the end of winter, despite warnings from some allies about the risk of widespread resistance. It is done.

Trade unions and leftist parties have vowed to block reforms that would raise the pensionable age from the current 62 to 64 or 65.

ngu-adp/tgb/raz/lb French refinery workers strike against government threats – Expat Guide to France

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