France fuel crisis: Strikes continue as trade union snubs pay rise offer


Strikes are continuing in France’s refineries despite hopes an agreement over pay would alleviate recent shortages at the pumps.

Gabriel Attal, French minister for Public Action and Accounts and a close ally to president Emmanuel Macron, said continuing blockages at oil refineries are “unacceptable”.

The CGT trade union on Friday rejected a wage increase offer for employees of French energy giant Total Energies amid three weeks of strike action that has sparked fuel shortages across the country.

CGT says it’s holding out for a 10% increase in light of soaring inflation and windfall profits for energy companies.

“After the meeting was suspended for one hour, the management simply came back with a proposal of a twenty euro increase per month”, said Thierry Defresne, CGT head of the European works council at TotalEnergies.

“We thought that this was a provocation and so we slammed the door and left the negotiating table”.

Two other major unions, CFDT and CFE-CGC, have agreed to the proposal, which promised a 7% pay rise and a financial bonus.

“It can’t go on like this,” said Dominique Convert, CFE-CGC union coordinator at TotalEnergies. “We see what is happening in the country and we cannot remain insensitive to it.”

Industrial action at refineries of Total Energies and Esso-ExxonMobil has left more than one in three petrol stations in France struggling for fuel, with long queues of motorists forming in recent days.

Strike action was lifted at two Esso-ExxonMobil refineries on Thursday and Friday, after France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne intervened to ensure employees striking resumed petrol supply to service stations.

Recent figures suggest just over a third of the public supports the strike action — as consumers feel the bite of fuel-pump uncertainty.

Around 30% of the country’s petrol stations are still struggling to operate – and four out of seven refineries remain at a standstill.

Two Esso-ExxonMobil refineries said on Friday that it would take “two to three weeks” to return to “a normal operating situation.”

Strikes at their refineries began on 20 September, with production brought to a complete standstill until they were lifted today. Esso’s sales volumes in September fell by 25% compared to August.

Railway staff and civil servants represented by the CGT union, the biggest in the public sector, voted on Thursday to stop work next week, with several labour groups calling for a national day of stoppages.


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