Ian Brodie with Reuters
A shortage of petrol at service stations which earlier affected the north-west of France and Paris spread southwards over the weekend.
In the Alpes-Martimes and Var departements, by Sunday evening many petrol stations had run out of many of their products and only motorway stations could be relied upon for a full range of fuel.
To help ease supplies, the government gave a dispensation for oil tankers to make deliveries on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, TotalEnergies offered to bring forward wage talks, on condition that the strikes were halted.
“Provided the blockades will end and all labour representatives agree, the company proposes to advance to October the start of mandatory annual wage talks,” it said. The talks were initially due to start in mid-November.
Union representatives earlier told Reuters the strikes staged by the CGT, one of France’s more militant unions, would continue. They have disrupted operations at two ExxonMobil sites as well as at two TotalEnergies sites.
Over roughly two weeks of industrial action, France’s domestic fuel output has fallen by more than 60 percent, straining nerves across the country, as waiting lines grow and supplies have run dry.
Almost a third of France’s petrol stations had problems getting deliveries of at least one fuel product on Sunday, up from 21% the day before, the office of the energy minister said.
France has released strategic reserves and raised imports, Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said, adding these should mean the supply situation improves on Monday.
Speaking to BFM TV, she welcomed TotalEnergie’s offer and said she expected a move from ExxonMobil’s Esso France unit “so that the French people are not taken hostage by this social dispute and can go to work with confidence”.
ExxonMobil in France did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Wage talks have been underway for weeks at ExxonMobil, while the CGT at TotalEnergies said it has been trying to get the management to the negotiation table earlier than formal talks scheduled next month.
Workers at TotalEnergies are seeking a 10 percent pay rise starting this year after a surge in energy prices led to huge profits that allowed the company to pay out an estimated eight billion euros ($7.8 billion) in dividends and an additional special dividend to investors.
The company’s CEO last week said “the time has come to reward” workers, but the company had refused to start negotiations.
A CGT representative said the union would not make any official comment on TotalEnergie’s offer before internal discussions and informing workers.
The CFDT union, France’s largest, which chose not to call for strikes despite demanding a similar pay rise, said it was prepared to start wage talks in October.
(Reuters reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Caroline Pailliez, Editing by David Goodman and Barbara Lewis)
FILE PHOTO: Messages reading “out of order” are seen at a Total petrol station in Reze near Nantes, France, December 3, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe