French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire urged striking workers on Monday to “release” the refineries and fuel depots blocked since the end of September, the eve of a day of widespread unemployment in France.
“We have to free the fuel deposits, the refineries that are blocked, use the requisitions”assured in the chain BFMTV Le Maire, for whom “the time for negotiation is over” after reaching agreements with a union majority.
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At the end of September, the workers of Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies began a strike to demand a wage increase, in a context of inflation and “super benefits” of the energy giants.
Although the former suspended their action after an agreement with the management of the US company, TotalEnergies employees redirected their strike on Monday that affects four refineries (one of them out of service for technical reasons) and five deposits.
The strikers consider the 7% salary increase in 2023 insufficient, accompanied by 3,000 to 6,000 euros of bonuses (2,925 to 5,850 dollars), which the French company and the CFDT and CFE-CGC unions (56% representation) agreed on Friday.
But the CGT trade union center, which is asking for a 10% increase in 2022, calls for the strike to continue, especially when TotalEnergies registered more than 10,000 million dollars in profits in the first half of 2022.
The stoppages have caused a fuel shortage for weeks at almost a third of gas stations. Despite the requisitions launched by a government under pressure, 30.1% continued to have supply problems on Sunday night.
The Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runncher, announced on Monday the requisition of personnel from a second TotalEnergies fuel depot, whose employees are forced to work under penalty of sanctions.
The CGT union and other centrals consider these requisitions as an attack on the right to strike and called last week in response for a general strike next Tuesday in France to demand a salary increase.
The scale of the protests is seen as an indicator of the ability of the liberal Emmanuel Macron’s government to push through its controversial pension reform, which is opposed by unions and the left-wing opposition.
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