Total Workers Vote to Halt Three Refineries in Labor Law Protest

  • Gonfreville, Feyzin, Donges refinery workers vote for stoppage
  • Workers protest government’s handling of labor-law bill

Workers at three Total SA refineries in France voted to halt the plants amid discontent over the government’s handling of a proposed labor law.

Workers at the Gonfreville refinery in Normandy, Feyzin near Lyon and at Donges, close to Nantes, voted Friday to shut down the facilities, according to Total union members from the Confederation Generale du Travail and Force Ouvriere. The three facilities have a combined processing capacity of about 575,000 barrels a day, according to data on Total’s website.

Workers at Gonfreville were about to start negotiating with management on the schedule to stop the refinery, according to CGT union member Alexis Antonioli who said the full shutdown of the plant would take five days.

The votes come as France faces protests against President Francois Hollande’s decision to bypass the lower house of parliament as he forced through changes to labor laws -- reducing extra pay for overtime and making it easier to fire staff in some cases. While the government has watered down the legislation since it was first proposed in February, unions are calling for it to be dropped altogether.

Exxon Plants

Some retail fuel stations were closed, with waiting times lengthening as people rushed to refill their vehicles, Agence France-Presse reported Friday.

Workers at Total’s Grandpuits refinery near Paris voted to continue working at reduced levels but stopped short of voting to halt their plant. At Exxon Mobil Corp.’s refineries in Gravenchon and Fos-sur-Mer staff also decided against halting plants, Emmanuel Lepine, a CGT union representative, said by phone on Friday.

Workers at Total’s refinery in La Mede and Ineos’s plant in Lavera may decide on a halt by early next week, according to Lepine.

Total couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Total, Europe’s largest refiner, operates five of France’s eight plants. The last time all its refineries were halted was for a week in December 2013 in a dispute over wages, according to Thierry Defresne, a CGT union member in Total’s refining unit.

Until now, no refinery had been halted in France but blockades at distribution depots caused shortages in Normandy and Brittany, Lepine said Thursday.

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