Roughly one in five petrol stations throughout France is not being supplied as it should and strategic oil reserves will likely be used at the weekend, the country’s energy minister said as strikes at four TotalEnergies refineries continue for a tenth day.
“Over 80% of the petrol stations are functioning as normal”, Agnes Pannier-Runacher said, adding there were “significant supply tensions” in some regions, particularly along the border with Belgium where fuel currently costs more.
“I call on the French citizens to be confident”, the minister added, saying the government was prepared to make further use of strategic reserves at the weekend to ease the tensions.
Long queues formed at inner-city and suburban service stations in and around the capital as early as Wednesday, with lines stretching back to the main A1 motorway heading northwards out of the city, according to a Reuters reporter.
Most urban petrol stations appeared to be affected by shortages of at least one type of fuel, with most diesel pumps running dry.
A walkout by CGT trade union members at TotalEnergies mainly over pay has disrupted operations at two refineries and two storage facilities, and two Exxon Mobil refineries have faced similar problems since Sept 20.
TotalEnergies reiterated that wage negotiations will begin in November, two months earlier than in previous years, and that the negotiations will focus on good results, wages and inflation.
“We asked you for efforts in 2020, and during Covid. This year, with our good results, the time has come to reward them,” CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, said in a memo seen by Reuters.
A big gathering of workers is planned for Tuesday in front of Le Havre, La Mede and Feyzin refineries, a CGT spokesperson told Reuters.
Fuel tanker trucks, which are usually not allowed to make deliveries on Sundays, will be allowed to operate, Transport Minister Clement Beaune told news channel LCI.
The minister also said he would bring transport unions together on Friday “to see where we can improve the supply locally.”
He said the government is trying to facilitate a dialogue between CGT and TotalEnergies.
Several senior government officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, the prime minister and the energy minister on Friday called on the sense of “responsibility” of unions and employers to reach an agreement.
The French government said earlier this week that France had tapped its strategic fuel reserves to resupply petrol stations that have run dry.