Strikers set for talks as some French petrol stations run dry

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews
A closed pump is seen at a petrol station, in Lille, northern France, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.
A closed pump is seen at a petrol station, in Lille, northern France, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.   -   Copyright  Michel Spingler/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Almost a third of petrol stations in France were dealing with fuel shortages on Sunday, amid an ongoing strike in the country's energy sector.  

Strikes by workers at TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil -- mainly over pay -- have disrupted major storage facilities and refineries, impacting around 60 per cent of France's output. 

France's energy minister has tried to calm nerves, but there are frustrations among drivers who have had to wait in line for hours at some petrol stations over the weekend. 

Unions say they are willing to begin negotiations next week. 

"The Government is doing its utmost to restore the situation to normal as soon as possible", Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in a statement on Saturday. 

"A solution to this conflict must be found as soon as possible", he added. 

On Sunday, French energy giant Total proposed to bring forward annual wage talks in response to demands by unions, who want pay rises to reflect soaring inflation and energy companies' profits.

"Provided the blockades will end and all labour representatives agree, the company proposes to advance to October the start of mandatory annual wage talks," it said in a statement.

TotalEnergies profits between April - June this year more than doubled to €5.85bn as the Ukraine war pushes up global wholesale prices of energy. 

One of those waiting in line at a petrol station near Paris was Terry Caboste, a metal worker.

"I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to get gas and now it's going to be about 4 hours [that I have waited] if there's gas at 8 am,” he said. 

Gilles Albou, a pensioner waiting in the same line, described his frustration at the situation: "I don't understand, I don't understand. It's difficult for me to understand why we end up in such situations?"

France’s Minister of Transport Clement Beaune said that there was no problem with supply in France on Saturday. 

He said shortages are a “localised phenomena, related to social movements", while urging companies and trade unions to act with "responsibility". 

The CGT union representing the workers said it was willing to enter talks after the weekend. 

“We are ready to start negotiations on Monday based on our wage claim alone," wrote Eric Sellini, a CGT coordinator at TotalEnergies

The union called for a 10 per cent increase in salaries in 2022, with 7 per cent of that meant to match inflation and another 3 per cent for wealth sharing. 

Watch the story in the video player above to learn more.