The Total refinery at Feyzin near Lyon supplies 70% of the Rhone-Alpes region’s fuel. At least it did before the current turmoil. Like virtually all of the country’s dozen refineries, production is at a standstill.
The strike began a week ago. On Monday it was extended for 48 hours. Many workers are in no mood to back down, even though the Senate vote on pension reform is imminent.
“This week is crucial,” said one worker. “Our next meeting is on Wednesday. And given people’s determination, there’s no problem, we’ll continue our action all week, the workers are resolute. You need to know that among the team in control, those who start and stop the plant, 90% are on strike. So I can’t see how it can operate with 90% of workers on strike.”
His colleague was equally determined:
“From tomorrow, we’re going to distribute leaflets to try to organise a solidarity fund so that people can keep going for as long as possible. I completely understand that many among us are the lowest paid, they can’t afford to strike. Many people support the movement, so they can make an effort, even if they only give five euros, that’s just a packet of cigarettes. If thousands do that, we can stay out for several weeks.”
Workers at the Total refinery benefit from an internal agreement allowing them to retire at 55. Even so, for them the industrial action is a question of social solidarity. Some give more than a hint that their aversion towards the government goes beyond the question of pension reform.
“This week is decisive. We’re not giving way,” said Demien Galera, a delegate from the CFDT union. “And those liars – Hortefeux the interior minister, Woerth the labour minister, all those ‘good for nothings’ who give us grief, let them come here and tell us there’s no petrol shortage, let them come here and tell people to work for two more years! While others work more and more, they threw out the reforms that concerned them. That’s the reality in France!”
The French government says it will not back down on pension reform. It has set up a crisis cabinet, vowing to safeguard fuel supplies across the country.