French strike keeps a third of oil refining sector shut

Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:33pm EST
 
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By Gus Trompiz

PARIS (Reuters) - A strike at three of Total's (TOTF.PA: Quote) five oil refineries in France held firm for an 11th day on Monday, but the risk of a repeat of fuel shortages seen during a 2010 walkout receded after staff at a fourth plant returned to work on Sunday.

The strikers, led by the CGT union, demand an improved pay offer from Total but the company has refused to reopen talks after other unions approved a deal this month.

CGT officials said votes by shift workers approved the continuation of the strike at the Gonfreville refinery in Normandy, La Mede in the south and Feyzin near Lyon.

"Our position is still the same. The fact we're just before Christmas has made our determination even greater," said Christian Votte, a CGT official at Gonfreville, the largest of the striking sites.

The three plants together represent just over a third of France's oil refining capacity and provide gasoline and diesel fuel for motorists. The end of the strike at Donges in western France, meant the share of closed capacity had fallen from just over half.

Total said the strike was not threatening fuel supply, echoing comments made by France's oil industry lobby UFIP that last week played down comparisons with the 2010 refinery strike which led to shortages at pumps.

"The current situation is not creating any major difficulty in fuel supply. All necessary measures have been taken to ensure deliveries during the holiday period," a spokeswoman said.

UFIP said on Friday that oil imports and use of depot stocks were preventing supply tensions from developing.   Continued...

 
General view of the French oil giant Total refinery of Grandpuits, southeast of Paris, October 13, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau