France ready to 'requisition' fuel supplies amid refinery strike

Unions demanding 10 per cent pay rise amid inflation and record profits

Workers from TotalEnergiegs and ExxonMobil protest outside a refinery in Fos-Sur-Mer. Reuters
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The French government said on Tuesday that it could step in to requisition fuel if a strike drags on among energy workers.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged unions and employers to strike a pay deal to unblock France’s fuel depots.

The weeks-long standoff has led to shortages at petrol stations and reports of motorists hopping over the border to Belgium to fill up their tanks.

Workers are demanding a 10 per cent pay rise to reflect high inflation and bumper profits for energy bosses.

While ExxonMobil has announced a deal with employees at two refineries, no progress has been reported in talks with rival company TotalEnergies.

President Emmanuel Macron has appealed for calm amid fears of fuel shortages, especially in the north of France.

Speaking to French radio on Tuesday, Mr Le Maire appealed for both sides to show responsibility to bring the strike to an end.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire appealed for a compromise from employers and unions. AFP

“Our compatriots cannot be the collateral victims of a social conflict between a union, the CGT, and a private enterprise, TotalEnergies,” he said.

But he said the government was ready to intervene if necessary if talks appear to have broken down.

“We will have no other option but to requisition the necessary means to free up the depots and make the refineries work,” he said.

The company said it had a “constructive and open state of mind” in negotiations and wanted workers to be given a fair reward.

France’s biggest trade union, CGT, announced on Monday it was continuing the strike.

The union said it was doubtful that TotalEnergies was prepared to meet its demands and that it was not willing to agree to a temporary suspension.

Updated: October 11, 2022, 9:21 AM