Macron misery as petrol stations run dry after strikes

Macron is 'anxious' about Liz Truss says commentator

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Petrol stations along France’s borders have run dry on the ninth day of crippling strikes which have disrupted petroleum company TotalEnergies’ refining and delivery of oil products. Roughly 12 percent of service stations are experiencing shortages, with the number in the northern Hauts-de-France region at 30 percent, government spokesperson Olivier Veran said.

The Hauts-de-France region also announced it was banning the sale of petrol and diesel in jerry cans and other portable containers, expanding the area from the initial announcement in the Pas-de-Calais department.

The UFIP petroleum industry body said problems at service stations were due to logistics and not insufficient supplies.

A spokesman said: “The situation is tense but there is currently no shortages in supply due to the strikes.”

A walkout by hard-left CGT trade union members at TotalEnergies has disrupted operations at two refineries and two storage facilities, while two Exxon Mobil refineries have faced similar problems since September 20.

The action remains the same as previous days, CGT spokesperson Thierry Defresne said, while adding the strike at TotalEnergies’ Feyzin refinery – which had allowed a few deliveries through on Tuesday – had tightened again.

However, TotalEnergies said repair works were currently underway at the 119,000 barrel per day refinery in southern France and only the loading and unloading of fuel was affected.

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The trade union is demanding a 10 percent salary increase to help catch up with soaring inflation, a massive investment plan and the hiring of temporary workers, Mr Defresne said.

So far, management is refusing a catch-up salary increase for 2022, and only wants to negotiate 2023 wages, he added.

The UFIP has previously said France has enough strategic reserves of oil products to cover average demand for about three months.

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TotalEnergies has said it has increased imports and has additional stocks “that could last between 20 days and a month.”

Outages in France’s refining sector are creating uncertainty in the refined oil trade amid a heavy oil refinery maintenance season in Europe this autumn.

A 24-hour strike by electricity union FNME hit France’s already stretched power grid last week as workers pushed for a pay increase agains a backdrop of rising tensions between unions and the government over planned pensions reforms.

The strike, heeded by roughly a fifth of the workforce, reduced nuclear power generation by 3.5 gigawatts (GW) by 1245 GMT and by 470 megawatts (MW) at hydropower stations – an overall nine percent reduction in production capacity, according to utility EDF.

Protest marches were held in major cities including capital Paris, Marseilles and Montpellier.

They were held the day after a cabinet meeting in which French President Emmanuel Macron, who has repeatedly stated his intent to reform the country’s pensions system before next summer, decided to draft legislation by Christmas after new talks with parties and unions.

Mr Macron, who lacks an absolute majority in the National Assembly, has also hinted at the possibility of holding snap elections if his reform is blocked, according to participants of the meeting.

Separately, TotalEnergies yesterday confirmed it was in touch with Danish police and military as well as the country’s energy agency on the matter.

Danish police have over the weekend received reports of drone activity near the Roar gas field in the North Sea, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday.

A company statement said: “We have taken the necessary steps.”

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