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France pressures oil companies to end refinery strikes

The French government on Friday asked the oil groups, including TotalEnergies, wage “efforts” to resolve the strikes that have been causing fuel supply problems for days.

“I call on the affected companies, which for the most part have recorded good results, to consider the requests for salary increases” and “we expect (…) efforts,” Olivia Grégoire, minister of SMEs, said on Franceinfo radio.

The lack of fuel affects, according to the government, 15% of gas stations, due to a strike at the TotalEnergies refineries, but also to the discount of 20 cents approved by the group, which is added to the state rebate.

Faced with supply interruptions affecting mainly northern France, the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, tried to calm fears, ruling out a fuel shortage in an interview with the BFMTV and RMC media.

The behavior of some motorists, especially in the north of France, led the government to ban the sale and purchase of fuel in drums to prevent the stockpiling of gasoline or diesel.

To alleviate the situation, the government will authorize tank trucks to circulate on Sunday and is also studying the release of “more” strategic reserves, the delegate minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, indicated on LCI television.

For days, the largest refinery of TotalEnergies, near the port of Le Havre (north), and other sites have been on strike, as well as two French refineries of its rival Esso-ExxonMobil, at the call of the CGT.

The general secretary of this union in the first group, Thierry Defresne, assured in RMC that his objective “is not to annoy people”, but “to express to Total the discontent of the employees because there is no distribution of wealth”.

“They give a lot to the shareholders, but they completely forget about the workers,” added Defresne, who mentioned inflation and the group’s announcement of paying 2.6 billion euros ($2.55 billion) in extra dividends.

The CGT demands a salary increase of 10% in 2022 –7% due to inflation and 3% due to the distribution of wealth–, but the management of TotalEnergies claims to have already taken measures that represent an average increase of 3.5% this year.

burs-tjc/avl

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