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Strikes persist at TotalEnergies refineries, fuel depot in France

By AFP - Oct 15,2022 - Last updated at Oct 15,2022

Motorists wait in lines at a gas station in Paris on Saturday (AFP photo)

PARIS — French refinery and fuel depot workers at five sites owned by oil giant TotalEnergies vowed to continue striking on Saturday, compounding concern over petrol supply ahead of wider protests early next week.

Four of France's seven refineries and one fuel depot were out of action, after strikers rejected a pay offer from the hydrocarbon industry leader.

Operations had resumed earlier in the week at two other refineries run by Esso-ExxonMobil, however, after workers struck a bargain with management.

The blockages have caused queues outside petrol stations, and worry across all sectors of the economy, from mobile healthcare workers to farmers.

President Emmanuel Macron's government forced some strikers back to work this week to open fuel depots, a move that infuriated unions but has been upheld by courts.

The hard-left CGT union, which launched the industrial action three weeks ago, said on Saturday that workers at three TotalEnergies sites had decided to extend their strike.

"The action has been extended at three sites," said Eric Sellini, the CGT coordinator at the company.

Employees at the two others, including France's largest refinery near the north-western city of Le Havre, had already decided to prolong their action.

Left-wing opponents of Macron have called for anti-inflation marches on Sunday.

The CGT has called a strike for Tuesday that could disrupt public transport nationwide.

The union risks stoking resentment in a country where three-fourths of workers rely on personal vehicles for their jobs, with public support for the strike at just 37 per cent in a BVA poll released Friday.

The CGT is pushing for a 10 per cent pay rise for staff at TotalEnergies, retroactive for all of 2022.

It says the French group can more than afford it, citing TotalEnergies' net profit of $5.7 billion in the April-June period as energy prices soared with the war in Ukraine, and its payout of billions of euros in dividends to shareholders.

It walked out of talks with the French group in the night of Thursday to Friday, even as other unions representing a majority of workers accepted a deal for a lesser pay hike.

TotalEnergies on Saturday urged its workers to resume work, "in view of the signing of a majority deal on salaries" with two other unions.

Esso-ExxonMobil has said it would take two to three weeks to relaunch production at its refineries.

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