Refinery strikes: under pressure, TotalEnergies and Esso-ExxonMobil ready to negotiate

Motorists on edge, political pressure: TotalEnergies offered on Sunday to bring forward its annual wage talks to October, responding to the CGT’s outstretched hand, provided the blockades end at the refineries and depots in …

Motorists on edge, political pressure: TotalEnergies offered on Sunday to bring forward its annual wage talks to October in response to the CGT’s outstretched hand, provided the blockades end at refineries and fuel depots, while Esso-ExxonMobil plans to bring the unions together on Monday.

At 3pm on Sunday, 29.7% of gas stations in France were short of at least one fuel (compared to 21% on Saturday), the energy transition ministry said.

At TotalEnergies, negotiations from October instead of November “will make it possible to define how the employees can benefit before the end of the year from the extraordinary results generated by TotalEnergies, while taking into account inflation for the year 2022.”, the group assures, which manages almost a third of the gas stations in France.

Since the start of the movement ten days ago, CGT has demanded a 10% pay rise – 7% for inflation, 3% for wealth sharing – the energy giant has made $10.6 billion in profits in the first half of the year. of 2022.

“We are going to study the proposals carefully and meet tomorrow morning with the different sites to decide on the continuation of the movement”, responded to AFP Eric Sellini, CGT coordinator at TotalEnergies, who regretted that the management did not have direct exchange with the trade union.

Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher welcomed the announcement from TotalEnergies and believed the conflict should “end”.

The management of Esso-ExxonMobil in France announced in a press release on Sunday evening its intention to bring together on Monday “the four trade union organizations representing the staff”. The group, whose two refineries in France have been shut down, says it is “convinced (that) the quality of the social dialogue, committed and continuous with the organizations representing the staff, will allow to quickly end the conflict”.

Salary negotiations started at Esso France on 20 September. The proposal currently on the table has only been approved by the CFE-CGC. The French branch of the American group called for an end to the strike on Sunday.

Pressure from government officials has increased in recent days on the two groups and the strikers to negotiate.

“I would like to confirm the government’s very firm appeal to the leaders and unions of TotalEnergies and Esso: a solution must be found without delay within the framework of the social dialogue (…) The French must no longer suffer the consequences of a social movement,” said Mrs. Pannier-Runacher.

Refueling in Belgium

Agnès Pannier-Runacher urged “all our fellow citizens not to fill up”, some gas stations were stormed with 30% to 35% extra consumption.

As of Sunday, many of them were still dealing with fractures. “I’m a taxi driver, I haven’t been able to work for two days,” lamented Thierry, 60, who was growing impatient after waiting three hours for a delivery at the Esso station on boulevard de la Villette in Paris. .

At gas stations, the situation got even worse on Sunday in Hauts-de-France, where 54.8% of them had problems, and in Ile-de-France, where 44.9% were in difficulty.

Visiting Algeria, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne assured that the situation would “improve during the week” as supplies arrive, particularly from French “strategic stockpiles”.

The government, which has effectively drawn on the country’s strategic reserves and increased fuel imports to deal with the crisis, recalled that tankers had been allowed to circulate throughout the weekend.

“These measures have enabled an increase in deliveries of around 20% compared to the usual flows”, stressed Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who specified that the government counted on “a significant improvement” of the situation on Monday, especially in the Hauts-of France .

Shutdown of refineries

Another consequence of the move: Many French people are crossing the Belgian border to get supplies, cross-border filling stations registering a 15 to 20% increase in demand, according to the Federation of Fuel and Fuel Traders.

On Saturday, TotalEnergie’s CGT had taken the first step to negotiate: In an open letter to CEO Patrick Pouyanné, it agreed to set aside its demands regarding hiring and investment to begin negotiations only on wages as early as Monday.

The leadership stressed on Sunday that before agreeing to negotiate in October, it had already brought forward the mandatory annual negotiations (NAO) to November without “waiting until January 2023 as is usually the case”.

The group’s largest refinery based in Normandy, the “biorefinery” in La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône) and the fuel depot in Flanders near Dunkirk (Nord) were “still completely stopped” on Sunday, according to the CGT. If the Feyzin refinery (Rhône) is also stopped, it is due to a technical accident, argues TotalEnergies.

On the Esso-ExxonMobil side, the CGT is demanding more substantial wage increases than “the 5.5% increase on average with a bonus of 3,000 euros for 2023” proposed by management, CGT elected official Christophe Aubert states.

Not enough “to cover galloping inflation, which is more in the context of super profits”, he assessed.


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