PARIS — TotalEnergies on Sunday proposed to bring forward annual wage talks, in response to union demands, to try to end a protracted strike that has disrupted supplies to almost a third of the country’s petrol stations.
“Provided the blockades will end and all labor representatives agree, the company proposes to advance to October the start of mandatory annual wage talks,” it said in a statement.
The talks were initially scheduled to start in mid-November.
Union representatives earlier told Reuters the strikes staged by the CGT, historically 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%, 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 supply 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.
“These additional volumes should allow the situation to improve throughout the day on Monday,” she said in a statement.
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 scheduled talks next month.
Workers at TotalEnergies are seeking a 10% 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 said last week “the time has come to reward” workers, but the company until 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 in a statement it was prepared to start wage talks in October.
ExxonMobil in France did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Aurore Berge, the head of the governing Renaissance group in the lower house of parliament, said workers had a legitimate right to seek a share in exceptional profits that were made with their help, but not to hurt ordinary people.
“It is not acceptable that workers stage preemptive walkouts which will hit whom? The French people who have no other choice (but to use their car),” she told BFM TV in an interview on Sunday.
Senator Bruno Retailleau, who is campaigning to become the head of the conservative Les Republicains, on Sunday urged the government to use force to end the shortages. ($1 = 1.0266 euros) (Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Caroline Pailliez Editing by David Goodman and Barbara Lewis)