PARIS (Reuters) -- France’s CGT trade union denounced TotalEnergies’ conditional offer for early wage talks as “blackmail”, saying strikes that have left a third of the country’s fuel stations running short would continue.
A day after the energy group offered to bring forward pay talks on condition that the union ends its two-week refineries strike, the CGT said that “this attempt is perceived as blackmail by the CGT and does not guarantee satisfaction of the demands expressed and therefore the return to work”.
The industrial action at TotalEnergies, which coincides with strikes at two Exxon Mobil refineries in France, comes as workers across Europe demand higher salaries to cope with surging inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
More than 60% of France’s refining capacity has been taken offline by the strikes, driving diesel prices higher and prompting the country to increase imports of the fuel.
Profit margins for northwest European diesel barges on Friday rose to their highest since early March.
Long tailbacks formed at fuel stations in the Paris region as drivers tried to fill up before more pumps run dry.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government is coming under mounting pressure to act as the strike grinds on and more fuel stations run out of some products.
The energy ministry said that almost a third of service stations nationwide faced shortages of at least one fuel product on Sunday. Website mon-essence.fr said that more than 2,000 stations had run dry, citing data from about 30,000 users since Thursday.
The CGT is demanding wage increases of 10%.
The strike has forced TotalEnergies’ 240,000 barrel per day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery offline. Deliveries of refined products are also blocked at the 119,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, which is closed for unplanned maintenance but has fuel in storage, and the Cote d’Opal and La Mede fuel depots.
Two ExxonMobil refineries have also been out of action since late September.
Salary negotiations have been under way for some weeks at Esso France, Exxon Mobil’s French business, while talks at TotalEnergies had been scheduled for mid-November before Sunday’s offer to bring them forward.
“This only encourages the striking workers, who are more united than ever”, a CGT official at TotalEnergies’ Feyzin refinery said of the company’s conditional offer.
The official said that only 47 fuel trucks had left Feyzin since Sept. 27, compared with 250 a day in normal times.