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Weekend strike in refineries and tensions at the pump

The CGT strike at TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil was extended on Saturday, the day after an encouragement for negotiations launched by the government that relaxed fuel transportation rules in an attempt to resolve supply tensions at the stations. “The situation should continue to improve, as we have obtained permits to allow the tankers to circulate this weekend” and “we have released strategic stock,” said Christophe Béchu, Minister of Transition Ecological, questioned on Franceinfo on Saturday. He tentatively rejected the prospect of restrictions at the pump: “We are not there, apart from the ban on filling jerry cans or cans, especially in the north of France where we have the worst situation. We are more tense”. On Friday, Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher announced “problems” in 42% of the stations in Pas-de-Calais and 43% in the north, slightly less than the previous day. Nationally, 19% of gas stations were short of at least one fuel on Friday afternoon, according to the ministry that ensures France has “90 days of consumption” in strategic stocks. At the pump, the queues of motorists become a daily spectacle. “I woke up there at 4 am to be able to look for gas, I waited 4 hours,” testified Terry Caboste, a metal worker who met Saturday at a station in Paris that limited refills to 30 euros per customer. Porte de Vincennes in Paris, a traffic jam of cars formed at 500 meters, in a concert of horns, near an Avia station where all fuels were more than 2 euros per liter, noted an AFP journalist. From Prague, President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called on motorists to “calm” and oil groups and unions to “responsibility”. “I call on the companies concerned, which for the most part are still performing well, to also consider requests for wage increases,” Olivia Grégoire, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, had previously stated, without naming. TotalEnergies and its $10.6 billion profit in the first half. – Wage increase – TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné did not speak publicly about the strike, but in an internal group video on Tuesday, he acknowledged that “the company’s results are exceptional in 2022” and stated “we will not forget you”. While the CGT is demanding a 10% increase in 2022 – 7% for inflation, 3% for “wealth sharing” – management recalls that it has awarded wage measures representing an average increase of 3.5% in 2022 and refers to a negotiation session scheduled for Nov. 15 for 2023 wages. She seems adamant on this timetable. On Saturday, according to the CGT, three more of the six French refineries were shut down: TotalEnergies’ largest refinery, in Normandy, and the two French refineries of the American Esso-ExxonMobil, where the movement was renewed on Saturday. “We’re about 70% strikers,” said Christophe Aubert, elected CGT at ExxonMobil, “these are the same workforce all weekend, so it shouldn’t move and nothing comes out of that.” In addition, at the TotalEnergies refinery in Feyzin (Rhône), there were “100% strikers at 6 am,” said Pedro Afonso, elected CGT. “Usually there are 250 to 300 trucks a day and between 30 and 50 wagons — nothing comes out,” he added, even if the refinery continues to produce. At TotalEnergies, in addition to the refinery in Normandy, in recent days, strikers have been mobilized en masse in the fuel depot in Flanders, near Dunkirk (North), at the “biorefinery” in La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône) and at the Grandpuits fuel depot in particular ( Seine-et-Marne) to limit the outflow of petroleum products as much as possible, according to the CGT. However, according to TotalEnergies, Grandpuits’ fuel depot is not in operation on weekends. The Donges refinery (Loire-Atlantique) has suspended the strike. Blockades by strikers lead to lower fuel deliveries, which means that gas stations are more likely to run out of petrol or diesel. TotalEnergies manages almost a third of French stations. But the group also attributes the disruptions to the success of the 20 cent pump discount it has been granting since September 1 in addition to the 30 cent state discount. bur-bl/ak/it