France orders more strikers back to work as fuel shortages bite

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The French government on Thursday ordered workers back to a second fuel depot in a bid to ease petrol shortages from a three-week strike, a move that infuriated unions hoping to amplify the conflict into a broader protest against President Emmanuel Macron.

Motorists across the country have faced long queues to fill tanks at stations that often run dry in a day, as six of France’s seven refineries have been shut down.

Macron acknowledged the mounting anger in a televised address Wednesday, promising that relief was in sight for next week.

But in the meantime, essential workers were told to return to work Thursday at the huge TotalEnergies fuel depot near Dunkirk, northern France, where around a dozen police were stationed outside, an AFP journalist saw.

The strike has left 30 percent of service stations nationwide with little or no fuel, though nearly half of stations are impacted in northern France and the greater Paris region, the energy transition ministry said.

“This is the Macron dictatorship,” said Benjamin Tange, a CGT official at the Dunkirk site.

– Escalation of tensions feared –

In response, CGT and FO leaders planned to meet with other unions Thursday to discuss broadening the strike to other sectors, potentially with a mass walk-out next Tuesday.

The refinery unions are seeking pay hikes in response to steep inflation, pointing to the massive profits of energy companies as gas and oil prices have soared during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re not going to negotiate through the media,” responded Eric Sellini, the CGT coordinator at the company.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio that given TotalEnergies’ huge profits this year, it had “the capacity… and therefore an obligation” to raise workers’ pay.

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Originally published as France orders more strikers back to work as fuel shortages bite


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