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Fuel refinery strike that has seen French petrol stations run dry ‘will continue’

A strike at refineries that has seen filling stations across France run dry will continue "for the duration", unions have declared.

Fuel refinery strike that has seen French petrol stations run dry 'will continue'
A sign which reads in French as "out of service" is seen on a nozzle at a TotalEnergies petrol station in Palavas les Flots, southern France, on October 4, 2022. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP)

Employees of Total Energies have been staging industrial action that includes blockades at refineries, in an ongoing dispute over pay, that has lead to shortages of petrol (gasoline) and diesel at Total filling stations across France.

On Friday around 15 percent of stations reported shortages while the worst affected areas – including the north-east France Hauts-de-France region – saw 30 percent of filling stations run dry.

The strike, called by the hardline CGT union, has been underway for 10 days and will continue until demands are met, CGT spokesman Thierry Defresne told Le Parisien newspaper.

The government has played down talk of a shortage, and on Friday it was announced that tanker drivers will be given a special dispensation to work on Sunday, in order to ease the supply issues.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran said during a press briefing that there is “no shortage of fuel.”

“There are temporary tensions,” said Véran. However, he advised that people “not create a panic effect” and “not all rush [to the stations]. We will not run out of fuel.”

The government spokesperson said that the situation is being closely monitored, and that strategic stocks may be called on if necessary as strike action continues. 

Local authorities have also asked the operators of some stations in the north of the country “to set up priority access” for “medical transport” such as doctors and nurses, according to La Voix du Nord.

“Does anyone know of a petrol station around here that’s been re-supplied?” read a post in a local Facebook post Friday morning. “Where can I get ethanol?” posted another motorist in the hope of filling the tank before the weekend.

“We’ve been dry since Sunday,” a manager at a station in central Paris said on Thursday.

Customers can check to see if stations near them are low in stock by consulting the map on TotalEnergies’ website, HERE.

Total bosses say that the refinery workers’ strike is not the only reason for fuel shortages – the company began offering customers an additional discount on fuel prices at the beginning of September, which could be added on top of the government’s existing fuel subsidy.

On July 22nd, the TotalEnergies announced it would offer a discount of €0.20 per litre at all its service stations in the country from September 1st until November 1st. In the second phase, which would run from November until December 31, the discount will be €0.10 per litre.

As a result of the campaign, the oil giant has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of customers frequenting its stations, which has left many without the necessary stocks to meet high demand.

The company assured customers that there is “no shortage of fuel” and that it “has built up stocks and is importing regularly,” according to France régions.

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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