PARIS — The time for talking is over, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday, as the government ordered more fuel depot staff back to work to try to restore petrol supplies, disrupted by strikes for weeks.
The government said it had ordered six workers back to work at a TotalEnergies depot in Dunkirk, northern France, and would do the same at its Feyzin depot in the southeast.
The oil company and unions representing a majority of its workers reached a pay deal including a 7% increase and a bonus on Friday, but the company failed to end its dispute with the hardline CGT union, which is demanding a 10% pay rise, citing inflation and huge profits made by the firm.
“The time for negotiation is over,” Le Maire told BFM TV, saying it was “unacceptable” and “illegitimate” for the CGT to continue walkouts into a fourth week when a deal has been reached.
A CGT representative said workers had extended their protest on Monday at TotalEnergies’ refineries at Normandie, Donges, La Mede, and Feyzin, as well as the depot in Dunkirk.
The government has already ordered staff back to work elsewhere, a move opposed by the CGT, which has called on other workers to join its protest.
But even so, petrol supplies will take some time to get back to normal. Transport Minister Clement Beaune told France Inter radio that petrol stations might still have problems until next week.
“We’re still struggling,” he said.
Some 28.1% of French petrol stations still faced supply problems as of 1600 GMT on Monday against 30% on Sunday, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RTL radio.
The government was doing “all it can so that the situation improves ahead of the Autumn school holidays” that start on Saturday.
ENERGY STRIKES WIDEN
Strikes have spilt over into other parts of the energy sector, including at nuclear giant EDF where maintenance work crucial for Europe’s power supply will be delayed.
A representative of the FNME-CGT union on Monday told Reuters strikes were affecting work at 10 French nuclear power plants, with further maintenance delays at 13 reactors and French power production reduced by a total of 2.2 gigawatts.
“It is vital for EDF to reach a wage deal with its unions,” Le Maire said on Monday, adding an agreement was needed “as fast as possible.”
He added the utility, which is in the process of being fully nationalized, was still on track with its plans to carry out nuclear repair works before the winter. (Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Sudip Kar-Gupta Additional reporting by Forrest Crellin, Dominique Vidalon Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mark Potter)