Nearly 30% of gasoline stations in France are suffering fuel shortages due to refinery shutdowns caused by strikes at TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil’s Esso France refineries, Reuters reported on Sunday citing the office of the energy minister.
Three out of six refineries are currently shut down and French media report huge queues at petrol stations across the country. According to France 24, the country’s domestic fuel output has dropped by more than 60% over nearly two weeks of strikes, equivalent to 740,000 barrels of petrol per day.
Workers, suffering from the cost of living crisis while soaring energy prices bring enormous profits for energy companies they work for, are demanding a pay rise. In the second quarter of 2022, TotalEnergies recorded $5.7 billion in profit against $2.2 million in the same period in 2021. French workers’ union CGT has called for a tax on these profits and a 10% wage increase, with 7% to counter inflation and 3% as “profit sharing.”
TotalEnergies on Sunday offered to bring forward wage talks from mid-November to October to appease employees and persuade them to lift the blockade on the refineries.
“Provided the blockades will end and all labor representatives agree, the company proposes to advance to October the start of mandatory annual wage talks,” it said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.
Esso France, which has been debating a wage rise with its employees for weeks, said it would hold a new round of talks later on Monday “with the aim of enabling the group’s refineries to resume operations as soon as possible.”
In an effort to ease the domestic fuel market, France released strategic reserves and raised imports, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in a statement on BFM TV on Sunday. She also welcomed the two energy firms’ decisions to speed up wage discussions “so that the French people are not taken hostage by this social dispute and can go to work with confidence.”
Union representatives told Reuters the strikes would continue until the workers’ demands are met.
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