Total Oil Refinery Workers in France Strike for Sixth Day

Dec 18, 2013 2:22 pm ET

(Updates with Donges refinery vote in first paragraph.)

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Industrial action at three French refineries of Total SA, the nation’s biggest oil company, entered its sixth day while one union said its workers will strike at Donges if demand for better pay isn’t accepted.

Gonfreville and La Mede have halted output while units at Feyzin are being shut, Dimitri Guiller, a representative of CFDT union, said by phone. Employees belonging to CGT at Donges will stop working at 1 p.m local time tomorrow unless Total responds to their submission, CGT’s Fabien Prive-Saint-Lanne said following a second vote earlier today, the results of which the union is disputing. Total and CFDT say a majority voted to accept the salary increase proposal.

“Europe has to shut refining capacity somewhere, and other European refineries will not mind French workers pushing themselves out of the picture,” Olivier Jakob, managing director of Zug, Switzerland-based Petromatrix GmbH, said in an e-mailed report today.

Total’s five refineries in France, including the Donges and Grandpuits facilities, have a capacity to process about 800,000 barrels a day of crude, or 60 percent of the nation’s output, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Demand for oil products in France averaged 1.76 million barrels a day in the third quarter, according to data from the International Energy Agency published on Dec. 11.

The strike at the Gonfreville, Feyzin and La Mede refineries continues, with 20 percent of all staff participating, according to an official at Paris-based Total, who asked not to be identified citing corporate policy. About 90 percent of staff on the 4 a.m. local time shift at La Mede have walked out, Julien Granato, a CGT union official at the site, said by phone.

Diesel Purchases

Industrial action over pay started at the refineries on Dec. 13, the day when salary negotiations began with Total, according to CGT. The CFDT and CGC-CFE unions agreed to a pay deal with the company Dec. 16, and an acceptance of the deal by two unions was “sufficient for any agreement to be deemed valid,” Vienna-based researcher JBC Energy GmbH said yesterday.

The Donges and Grandpuits refineries are boosting production after workers there voted earlier this week to end the strike action, the Total official said in an e-mailed response to questions before the second vote at Donges.

Total today bought one diesel cargo, for delivery to La Havre in northern France and two barges of the fuel in the Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp oil-hub via the Platts pricing window, according to a survey of traders and brokers. It has purchased more than 60,000 metric tons of diesel, the main transportation fuel in the nation, this week.

--Editors: Raj Rajendran, Randall Hackley