Fuel For Members

Reader question: Will pension strikes affect fuel supplies in France?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 8 Feb, 2023 Updated Wed 8 Feb 2023 08:56 CEST
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Strikers at an oil refinery. (Photo by Damien Meyer / AFP)

Protests against government reforms include walkouts and pickets at France’s oil refineries - but does that mean we’re about to see shortages at the petrol pumps as we did in October?


The third wave of strikes and protests over the government’s planned pension reforms hit France this week - and unions have threatened further action in the coming days and weeks.

Refinery workers walked out for 48 hours in January and again for 72 hours on February 6th, in a strike planned to coincide with the latest protests.

On Wednesday morning, workers continued the 72-hour protest, and the CGT union representing refinery workers said they counted high levels of strike participation among morning shift workers - 100 percent at the Flanders refinery in the north, 80 percent at the refinery in Donges in Loire-Atlantique, 70 percent at the refinery of Feyzin in Rhone, and 56 percent at the refinery in Normandy.

Éric Sellini, CGT union representative with TotalÉnergies told AFP on Wednesday that there would be a meeting with all "CGT unions representing workers in the oil industry" on Thursday to decide whether to extend strike action to other related sectors.

Up until now, producers have been confident there will be no supply issues as a result of these strikes and have reassured drivers that stocks are full.


But industry experts have warned that problems could lie ahead if strike action and blockades are stepped up but also if drivers resort to panic-buying.

While shipments were briefly interrupted during January's two-day walkout, there was no impact on services at fuel pumps, even though unions registered high strike participation levels. 

“Stocks at service stations are full, [and] French depots are full,” Francis Pousse, president of service stations and new energies at Mobilians, told BFMTV at the time, as he warned that any dash to the pumps - even for “precautionary purchases” - may create unnecessary problems.

“The fact of rushing to the pump will constrain stocks more quickly and that's when we will have difficulties,” he said.

Patrick Pouyanné, the boss at Total Energies had a similar message.

"Don't panic, the stocks are full, the service stations are well supplied," he told Sud Ouest newspaper.

"Some want to make precautionary purchases (of fuel) but this practice is dangerous, they can put the system under stress unnecessarily," he added.

Unions have, however, warned that their strikes are renewable, and can therefore be extended. The last extended refinery strikes in October led to supply problems in France that lasted well over a week. 

However Sellini warned that if strike action was stepped up then stocks would be affected and "several motorway service stations may have to close."

Meanwhile, reports have hinted that fuel prices may start rising again in France in the weeks ahead, as the European Union stepped up sanctions on Russian oil following the invasion of Ukraine.

In December, the EU imposed an embargo on Russian crude oil transported by sea. On February 5th, Member States did the same for refined Russian petroleum products, such as diesel.


Research shows that the oil price cap and the EU embargo on Russian crude is costing Russia €160million a day. Russia's revenue from fossil fuel exports fell 17 percent in December 2022, to the lowest level since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.



The Local 2023/02/08 08:56

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