Total Workers Call for Wider French Strike After Refinery Halted

A labor union representing Total SA workers has called for a France-wide strike July 2 at refineries, oil depots and crude import terminals to protest a plan to stop processing the fuel at the La Mede plant in southern France.

The La Mede refinery near Marseille has been idled since June 11 due to a strike by about 15 workers led by the CGT union, which called for the additional disruptions Thursday, according to a spokesman for Total. Talks with all unions on the plan for the site continue, he said.

In calling for a wider strike, the CGT wants to protest the planned “death” of crude refining at La Mede, it said in a statement Monday. The union also called for blockades of Total service stations around the country every Thursday during the summer months.

Total plans to convert the unprofitable plant to produce biofuels as well as to reconfigure its Donges refinery on the Atlantic coast, it said in April. The projects are aimed at lowering its European refining capacity and making it more profitable.

Europe’s biggest refiner will invest 200 million euros ($224 million) at La Mede for a biorefinery that will process 500,000 metric tons annually, Total said. Processing of crude oil will stop at the end of next year, while the company will cut 180 jobs at the site without firings, it said.

By halting crude-processing at La Mede, France will be left with seven oil refineries compared with 24 in 1977. The most recent wave of closures included Total shutting its plant near Dunkirk in 2010 amid a bitter strike, and shutdowns by Petroplus Holdings AG and LyondellBasell Industries NV.

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