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France’s TotalEnergies said Sunday it would advance annual pay talks with unions if they dropped a blockade of fuel depots and refineries that has slashed petrol supplies across the country. online news
Vehicle owners have faced increasingly long waits to fill up after two weeks of strikes by workers demanding higher wages in response to soaring prices.
“I haven’t been able to work for two days now,” complained 60-year-old taxi driver Thierry.
He had “gone round the whole of Paris” to find fuel and had already been waiting for three hours at a filling station in the capital for fuel tankers to turn up, he said.
Like other major oil companies, TotalEnergies has seen its profits soar as energy prices skyrocket during the war in Ukraine. Government officials have been pressing the company to settle the standoff.
TotalEnergies runs a network of around 3,500 filling stations in France, nearly a third of the total. Most of them are low on fuel or even empty for some kinds of petrol.
“If the depot blockades end and with the agreement of all labour representatives, the company proposes to move forward the annual salary negotiations from November to October,” TotalEnergies said.
The discussions would define “how employees will benefit from TotalEnergies’ exceptional results before the end of this year, taking into account this year’s inflation”.
- Relief on the way: ministers –
On Sunday, the CGT union branch at the company — which is leading the strikes at TotalEnergies and at rival Esso-ExxonMobil — said the industrial action would continue, but that it was open to talks as soon as Monday.
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“If we do start talks, it will be based on our demands — a 10-percent salary hike… retroactive for the year 2022,” branch coordinator Eric Sellini told AFP.
Currently three of Total’s refineries are blocked, including its largest, in Normandy, and a fuel depot near Flandres in the north.
Management at Esso-ExxonMobil said it would hold talks with the unions representing its staff Monday, expressing confidence it could reach a rapid settlement.
The government has already dipped into strategic stockpiles in a bid to bring relief, and exceptionally fuel tankers are being allowed to make deliveries Sunday.
“I’m all in favour of dialogue so French people don’t have to put up with this industrial action for too long,” Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told BFM television.
The government has increased supplies by 20 percent, she said, but fears of running out of fuel were aggravating the shortage. Some areas have seen a 30-percent spike in sales to motorists.
“The situation should improve tomorrow,” she added.
That sentiment was echoed by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
“The situation is going to improve throughout the week,” she told journalists on Sunday on the sidelines of her visit to Algeria.
The government had freed up stocks of fuel to supply filling stations and the deliveries would arrive “progressively”, she added.
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