Strike ends at France's refineries

Workers at France’s 12 refineries have gone back to work Oct. 29 as the last holdouts at Total SA’s Gonfreville, Donges, Feyzin, and Grandpuits facilities voted to end the strike.

Oct 29th, 2010

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, Oct. 29 -- Workers at France’s 12 refineries have gone back to work Oct. 29 as the last holdouts at Total SA’s Gonfreville, Donges, Feyzin, and Grandpuits facilities voted to end the strike. Also unblocked now are the two oil terminals of Le Havre in Normandy and Fos-Lavera on the Mediterranean.

The strike began Oct. 13 at 8 refineries, but impacted the 4 refineries in southern France earlier on as the Marseille Fos-Lavera terminals were blocked by the CGT for 33 days in an effort to ward off privatization of the Marseille port.

There are now 38 crude tankers, 20 product tankers, 13 butane-propane, and 7 chemical carriers that are to start docking as early as tonight, indicated the Marseille port authorities.

Strikers at Fos-Lavera subsequently joined in with the other refinery strikers to force the government to backtrack on its pension-reform plan. The situation is now nearly normal at retail outlets with all oil depots unblocked and 80% of the outlets supplied.

The oil companies have been making up for refinery shut downs with soaring product imports from Amsterdam, Spain, Italy, and Russia. Total's spokesman told OGJ the company's product imports have increased fourfold.

Jean-Louis Schilansky, president of the oil trade union UFIP, noted that about 100,000 tonnes/day of products were being imported. The amount includes gasoline, which is usually never imported due to overcapacities in France.

Shilansky also indicated that the strike will cost the oil industry hundreds of millions of euros. Already hit with overcapacities and tight margins, France's refining industry will have trouble recovering from the strikes, noted other industry sources, not wanting to be identified.

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