Salem Radio Network News Thursday, September 28, 2023

World

France requisitions refinery workers as energy strikes continue

PARIS (Reuters) – Several French refineries were still blocked from delivering products after two weeks of strikes, causing production and power supply to be disrupted, while attempts to requisition workers at the Fos refinery sparked scuffles with police.

The industrial action is part of a nationwide movement against pension system changes including an increase to the retirement age in France by two years to 64, which was forced through parliament without a vote.

The French government has taken steps to order workers to resume operations at the Fos depot operated by Gas Depots of Fos (DPF), government minister Clement Beaune said.

The requisition is for three employees per shift and is valid for 48 hours as needed, the French energy ministry said.

Fights broke out at the Fos site after the requisition order, with BFM TV showing the refinery enveloped in tear gas, while some demonstrators threw objects at the police line.

Fuel stations are generally well supplied at a national level, but tensions in supply are forming in some regions in the south of France, energy minister Agn├Ęs Pannier-Runacher said.

Strategic reserves of fuel have been utilised “in a targeted manner” since the beginning of March, the energy ministry said. The ministry did not provide detail of any shortages, saying strategic stocks are confidential data.

The Normandy refinery operated by oil major TotalEnergies will be shut down on Tuesday because of the strike, a company spokesperson said, as the industrial action against the pension changes stretched into its 14th day.

Production disruptions at other sites operated by TotalEnergies remained unchanged, the spokesperson added.

About 36% of operational staff at TotalEnergies’ refineries and depots were on strike on Tuesday morning, the spokesperson said.

On the electricity side, French power capacity was reduced by 15.6 gigawatts (GW) because of strike disruption at nuclear, thermal and hydropower plants, a union official said.

That equates to 28% of French power supply on Tuesday morning, grid operator RTE data showed. However, France was exporting 1.6 GW to neighbours, the RTE data showed, suggesting that domestic supply is enough to meet demand.

Maintenance was also blocked at 11 French reactors, including the Penly 1 reactor that was found to have stress corrosion cracks this month, the CGT spokesperson added.

(This story has been corrected to fix Fos refinery to Fos Depot in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin, America Hernandez, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benjamin Mallet; Editing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens)

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