france fuel shortage
© REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Cars queue to fill their fuel tanks at a Total petrol station in Paris, France, October 8, 2022.
Gasoline shortages were catastrophic at gas stations across France last Monday as workers on strike at energy giant Total Energies enter their third week. At the same time, the government, realizing the seriousness of the situation, is trying in every possible way to achieve negotiations.

According to official estimates, about 30 percent of filling stations were either empty of all, or at least some, fuels, leading to long lines of desperate motorists.

There were hopes that the wage strike at Total Energies, one of the world's largest energy multinationals, would end quickly after management agreed on Sunday to continue wage negotiations in exchange for workers reopening.

However, the CGT union rejected the offer, accusing management of "blackmail". The union is demanding a 10 percent pay rise by 2022, pointing to Total Energies' exceptionally strong first-quarter profit of $10,6 billion. In turn, Jean-Marc Durand, head of European oil refineries Total Energies, objected, spoiling the wording that "the French are being blackmailed."

On Monday, shutdowns continued at several refineries, including the largest in France, which is located near Le Havre in the north of the country. In doing so, the CGT extended the strike to more than a dozen service stations along key French motorways. Workers at Esso-ExxonMobil's French subsidiary also went on strike, blocking two oil refineries.

Members of the French government, including Prime Minister Elisabeth Born, called on both sides to reach a negotiated settlement as soon as possible. In her opinion, the situation is expected to improve during this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his opinion. He said that the current shortage of gasoline is not related to the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, but also not related to government actions.

Comment: Did Macron say what had caused the shortages?

"Blockades and pickets are not the way to negotiate" Macron said, calling for negotiations as soon as possible.

France's petrol crisis comes at a time of high energy prices and inflation that are eroding the purchasing power of local households. Every week the country loses up to half a million euros because of these actions.

The French say that they often have to travel around the cities for 3-4 hours to get to the gas station where there is gasoline. Only at the same time and there you need to stand a huge queue of people who want to refuel.