NewsWhy are there such long lines at gas stations...

Why are there such long lines at gas stations in this European country?

The shortage of fuel due to a strike of workers in the oil sector continued this Monday in France, whose president, Emmanuel Macron, called for a “quick” solution when almost a third of gas stations have supply problems.

“The blockade is not a way to negotiate,” Macron said during a visit to Château-Gontier, in western France, shortly after the strikers redirected their action for another day and also extended it to some 15 motorway gas stations in a subsidiary of Total Energies.

The government is under pressure. The calls for dialogue in recent days had no effect and the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, even called an emergency meeting on Monday night with the ministers affected by the situation.

This is what we know about the fuel shortage affecting France.

What are the strikes about?

For days, the largest refinery of TotalEnergies, near the port of Le Havre (north), and other of its sites have been on strike, as well as two French refineries of its rival Esso-ExxonMobil, at the call of the unions.

The CGT demands a salary increase of 10% in 2022 —7% due to inflation and 3% due to the distribution of wealth—, but the management of TotalEnergies claims to have already taken measures that represent an average increase of 3.5% this year .

One of the strikers’ criticisms is that TotalEnergies does not want to distribute part of its profits among the workers, which in the first half of 2022 reached 10.6 billion dollars.

“Total should see that the situation is difficult for everyone (…) and redistribute them because we can no longer. Everyone pays the consequences of this war,” said Lahssen Boussalah, a 45-year-old computer scientist, in line at the gas station of Lille.

The strike at the Esso refinery in Fos, near Marseille, began almost three weeks ago, while two Total facilities walked out on October 4.

Most affected regions

The images of closed gas stations or long queues before those that remain open are repeated in France. In the north, where the situation is critical, on Monday morning motorists were already queuing at the only gas station open in Lille.

“I have a company, two vans already blocked in the depot and I’m in reserve, so I absolutely have to refuel, otherwise I can’t move anymore,” said Bruno Duwez, a 63-year-old businessman.

More than 60% of France’s refining capacity has been out of service due to strikes, pushing up gasoline prices and prompting the country to increase imports of the fuel.

There were long queues at gas stations in the Paris region as drivers tried to refuel before more pumps ran out.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government is under increasing pressure to take action.

The Energy Ministry said nearly a third of gas stations across the country faced shortages of at least one fuel product on Sunday. According to the website more than 2,000 stations had run out of fuel, citing data from some 30,000 users since Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, 29.7% of gas stations lacked at least one type of fuel on Sunday at 3:00 p.m., compared to 21% on Saturday.

Fuel prices rose by an average of 10 cents per liter last week. Diesel reached 1.8035 euros (1.75 dollars), despite the 30-cent reduction approved by the State to contain inflation.

To alleviate the situation, the second economy of the European Union (EU) has already unlocked its strategic fuel reserves and authorized tankers to circulate on Sunday, while TotalEnergies imported fuel.

Union rejects negotiations

The French union CGT denounced a conditional offer by TotalEnergies to advance wage negotiations as “blackmail”, and announced that the strikes that have left a third of the country’s service stations without fuel will continue.

A day after the energy group offered to bring forward wage talks on the condition that the union end its two-week strike at the refineries, the CGT stated that “this attempt is perceived as blackmail by the CGT and does not guarantee the satisfaction of the expressed demands and, therefore, the return to work”.

With information from AFP, EFE and Reuters

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