In defiance of the government, French oil refinery workers vote to continue the strike

In defiance of the government, French oil refinery workers vote to continue the strike The striking French oil refinery workers to demand higher wages decided to continue their protest movement, in defiance of the government, which began summoning some of them to force them to return to work.  The striking French oil refinery workers voted, on Wednesday, to continue their protest movement in defiance of the government, which began summoning some of them, to force them to return to work in an attempt to resume pumping supplies.  The union movement demanding wage increases paralyzed six of the seven fuel refineries in France, which led to a shortage of gasoline and diesel, which exacerbated the rush of drivers to buy these materials.  Having previously threatened to use its emergency powers that would enable it to summon essential workers and force them to return to their workplaces, the government announced Wednesday that it would use those powers as strikes entered their third week.  Employees of the fuel depot at the Gravanchon-Port-Gerome refinery in northwestern France, owned by the US giant ExxonMobil, will be the first to be directed to the government's order, an energy ministry official told AFP.  The official added that "in the face of the continuing strike by some workers in Port Jerome in Normandy, the government began to order essential workers in the warehouse to return to work."  Workers who refuse to comply with the summons will face a fine or a prison sentence.  The government also said it would hold an emergency meeting on the crisis on Wednesday, as queues continued at gas stations to block traffic on the streets of Paris and major major cities.  As of Tuesday evening, 31% of stations across the country lacked at least some type of fuel, and the figure was 44% in the Paris region.  Esther Biribi, who works in the capital's healthcare sector, had hoped to find petrol at the third stop she had been to since 7am.  "I feel angry and worried," she told AFP, adding, "I understand that they want higher salaries, but I don't understand how they stop the wheel of an entire country."  - Growing resentment  The left-wing General Confederation of Labor (CGT), which is leading the strikes, announced Tuesday that any recall would be "unnecessary and illegal", raising the prospect of legal appeals.  The union is demanding a 10% pay rise for Total Energy employees, with retroactive effect for all of 2022, and says management has refused to enter into talks.  "It's easier to issue a summons to our CEO and bring him to the negotiating table," said Germinal Lanslan, CGT union president for ExxonMobil at the Gravanchon-Bourg-Gerome refinery.  Total Energy said on Wednesday that it would meet all union representatives, after it had previously stressed that it would only meet with those who agreed to end the strike.  The government has so far refrained from fueling the conflict, but in the past few days officials have had to acknowledge the growing discontent and economic damage caused by drivers waiting for hours to refuel their cars.  "Oil is very important to us. Last week was a nightmare," a driver named Santiago told AFP in Paris.  The crisis in France comes against the backdrop of a sharp rise in energy prices and inflation, while the huge profits achieved by Total Energies caused an escalation of anger and calls for the imposition of an exceptional tax on the energy group.  Even if key employees are ordered to return to operating the oil refineries, "it would take at least two weeks" to restore the strained energy supply outside Marseille, Gilles Villard, representative of Esso's CGT union at the Vos-sur-Mer refinery, said.  This crisis could add momentum to a march that left-wing political parties plan to organize on Sunday against the policies of President Emmanuel Macron and the huge rise in the cost of living.  "I hope this will spark a general strike," Green Party MP Sandrine Rousseau told France Info radio on Wednesday.  The crisis comes as Macron seeks to push ahead with a controversial pension reform by the end of winter, despite warnings from some allies of the dangers of widespread opposition.  Labor unions and left-wing political parties vowed to seek to block the reform, which would raise the retirement age from the current 62 to 64 or 65 for the majority.

The striking French oil refinery workers to demand higher wages decided to continue their protest movement, in defiance of the government, which began summoning some of them to force them to return to work.

The striking French oil refinery workers voted, on Wednesday, to continue their protest movement in defiance of the government, which began summoning some of them, to force them to return to work in an attempt to resume pumping supplies.

The union movement demanding wage increases paralyzed six of the seven fuel refineries in France, which led to a shortage of gasoline and diesel, which exacerbated the rush of drivers to buy these materials.

Having previously threatened to use its emergency powers that would enable it to summon essential workers and force them to return to their workplaces, the government announced Wednesday that it would use those powers as strikes entered their third week.

Employees of the fuel depot at the Gravanchon-Port-Gerome refinery in northwestern France, owned by the US giant ExxonMobil, will be the first to be directed to the government's order, an energy ministry official told AFP.

The official added that "in the face of the continuing strike by some workers in Port Jerome in Normandy, the government began to order essential workers in the warehouse to return to work."

Workers who refuse to comply with the summons will face a fine or a prison sentence.

The government also said it would hold an emergency meeting on the crisis on Wednesday, as queues continued at gas stations to block traffic on the streets of Paris and major major cities.

As of Tuesday evening, 31% of stations across the country lacked at least some type of fuel, and the figure was 44% in the Paris region.

Esther Biribi, who works in the capital's healthcare sector, had hoped to find petrol at the third stop she had been to since 7am.

"I feel angry and worried," she told AFP, adding, "I understand that they want higher salaries, but I don't understand how they stop the wheel of an entire country."

- Growing resentment

The left-wing General Confederation of Labor (CGT), which is leading the strikes, announced Tuesday that any recall would be "unnecessary and illegal", raising the prospect of legal appeals.

The union is demanding a 10% pay rise for Total Energy employees, with retroactive effect for all of 2022, and says management has refused to enter into talks.

"It's easier to issue a summons to our CEO and bring him to the negotiating table," said Germinal Lanslan, CGT union president for ExxonMobil at the Gravanchon-Bourg-Gerome refinery.

Total Energy said on Wednesday that it would meet all union representatives, after it had previously stressed that it would only meet with those who agreed to end the strike.

The government has so far refrained from fueling the conflict, but in the past few days officials have had to acknowledge the growing discontent and economic damage caused by drivers waiting for hours to refuel their cars.

"Oil is very important to us. Last week was a nightmare," a driver named Santiago told AFP in Paris.

The crisis in France comes against the backdrop of a sharp rise in energy prices and inflation, while the huge profits achieved by Total Energies caused an escalation of anger and calls for the imposition of an exceptional tax on the energy group.

Even if key employees are ordered to return to operating the oil refineries, "it would take at least two weeks" to restore the strained energy supply outside Marseille, Gilles Villard, representative of Esso's CGT union at the Vos-sur-Mer refinery, said.

This crisis could add momentum to a march that left-wing political parties plan to organize on Sunday against the policies of President Emmanuel Macron and the huge rise in the cost of living.

"I hope this will spark a general strike," Green Party MP Sandrine Rousseau told France Info radio on Wednesday.

The crisis comes as Macron seeks to push ahead with a controversial pension reform by the end of winter, despite warnings from some allies of the dangers of widespread opposition.

Labor unions and left-wing political parties vowed to seek to block the reform, which would raise the retirement age from the current 62 to 64 or 65 for the majority.
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