Oil & Gas

15 Oct 2022

CGT Union Shuns TotalEnergies Talks as French Petrol Crisis Drags On

15 Oct 2022  by   

A fuel tanker leaves a TotalEnergies depot and former oil refinery, in Mardyck near Dunkerque, France, October 13, 2022. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

The CGT union at the core of a weeks-long strike at oil major TotalEnergies slammed the door to talks on Friday, leaving more moderate unions to reach a wage deal as industrial action continues to leave French petrol stations short of fuel.

Despite the government requisitioning key refinery staff to get petrol flowing again, nearly a third of gas stations still have supply problems.

Energy ministry data show 28.5% of French petrol stations are facing supply problems, down from 29.1% on Thursday and 30.85% on Wednesday, when requisitioning started.

At ExxonMobil, the hardline CGT union said it had ended its strike as other unions had signed a wage deal earlier this week, but at TotalEnergies the CGT vowed to continue strike action despite moderate unions agreeing a wage deal with management in the early hours of Friday.

TotalEnergies' CFDT and CFE-CGC unions - which represent a majority of its workers - said they had agreed a 7% pay rise and a bonus payment from 3,000 euros to 6,000 euros ($2,921-$5,842).

TotalEnergies confirmed the agreement on Friday. Though the deal is legally binding under French law, the CGT stand-off means strike action could continue for some time yet.

CGT TotalEnergies representative Thierry Defresne tweeted the increase offered by the firm did not even cover inflation, which he said was a bad sign for wage negotiations in other industries.

"If Total cannot do it, who will?" he said.

The CGT previously said it wanted a 10% wage rise, citing inflation and the company's windfall profits from the global energy crisis.

Another CGT representative at TotalEnergies told Reuters that all ongoing strikes, affecting four refineries and a depot, continued on Friday.

The example at ExxonMobil, where strikes at two French refineries continued for several more days after a deal was reached with more moderate unions in the majority, showed that only government intervention ultimately allowed for the release of supplies, an industry source said.

A court in Lille, northern France, on Friday rejected a CGT legal challenge against government requisitioning of staff at the TotalEnergies Dunkirk refinery.

Transport Minister Clement Beaune told reporters on Friday it would take a few more days before the situation would return to normal.

"The president has set a target for the middle of next week, we are working on that," he said.

An ExxonMobil official told Reuters that at the Fos refinery loading and pumping had restarted, but that restarting the refinery would take time. The firm's Gravenchon refinery also remained offline.

ExxonMobil's French business Esso later issued a statement saying it expected production to be back to normal at the two refineries "within two to three weeks".


In the northern Hauts-de-France and Paris regions, parents could not drive their children to sports matches, employees struggled to get to work and people had to cancel planned trips.

Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said that, at this stage, the government was not planning further requisitioning but added TotalEnergies bosses and CGT officials must resume talks despite the setback. The government has also urged TotalEnergies to raise salaries.

"The company is in good shape and shareholders have been rewarded for a long time," Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, told franceinfo radio.

As social tensions rise in the euro zone's second-biggest economy amid high inflation, there is a risk the petrol crisis, which is dominating news programmes, could spill into other sectors.

The CGT, France's second-largest trade union, is seeking to scale up the movement and is calling for cross-sector nationwide industrial action.

Strikes are already under way at some of state utility EDF's nuclear reactors, threatening power output. A union representative said that nuclear production was cut at two EDF power stations while two other sites are preparing for a strike over the weekend. read more

Union branches in other sectors including the railway and automotive industries announced they would take part in a wider strike planned for next Tuesday.

An escalation of industrial action could pose a threat to President Emmanuel Macron's reform agenda. The left-wing NUPES parliamentary coalition aims to capitalise on the situation with a march on Sunday.

($1 = 1.0270 euros)


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