French Oil Terminal Reopens Despite Strike


By Reuters 2016-05-27 21:15:16

Managers have taken over operations and reopened pipes at the CIM oil port terminal in Le Havre, northern France, after union members decided to extend their strike on Friday, a CGT union official said.

CIM, which handles about 40 percent of French crude imports, has not been able to deliver crude to refineries and refined products to the market since Tuesday after workers joined a nationwide rolling strike against planned labor reforms.

Unions, teachers, students and youth groups led the initial strikes and protest in March and April against the labor law changes but opposition was faltering until the government began the process of forcing the bill through the lower house of parliament on May 10.

The oil workers' intervention has given the protests, which began in March, new impetus.

The CGT objects particularly to proposals that would let companies opt out of national obligations on labor protection if they adopt in-house deals on pay and conditions with the consent of a majority of employees.

"Managers have taken over control of CIM and they have started to reopen pipes because Exxon's Gravenchon refinery, which was still operating, was running low on crude," CGT union official Thierry Defrense said.

"This was ordered by the local government official," Defrense said.

The company is central to France's oil sector with its 2.4 million cubic metres of crude storage capacity and 1.7 million cubic meters of refined products storage capacity that includes jet fuel, diesel, petrol and naphtha at Le Havre port.

CIM supplies nearby Exxon Mobil's 240,000 barrel-per-day Port Jerome - Gravenchon refinery, one of three out of eight refineries in France that has not been halted by the strike.

A spokeswoman for Exxon said the refinery began to receive crude from CIM around midday on Friday after the pipes were reopened.

CIM's 150 CGT members, out of a staff of 260, will meet again on Monday to decide the next step, Mathias Jeanne, a CGT official said.

"If the government does not budge, we are ready to take it to the end," he said.

CIM also supplies jet fuel to Paris Aeroport which manages the three main airports in the French capital Roissy, Orly and Le Bourget. A spokesman said on Thursday that Paris Aeroport still had stocks to last another week.

The strike by oil sector CGT workers has led to refinery shut downs, blockade of fuel depots, fuel supply disruption and a backlog of several dozen oil tankers at the two main French oil ports at Le Havre and Fos-Lavera.

French oil and gas company Total said on Friday that four of its five refineries in France had been completely shut down due to the strike.

Defrense said Total's management has ordered non-striking workers at its Normandy refinery to reopen some pipes to allow products to flow to depots in the Paris region that had just two more days of stock left.

Total could not be reached for comment.

Total, Europe's largest refiner, said earlier that its fifth refinery, the 153,000 barrel-per-day La Mede in the south of France, was still running at reduced output capacity.

It added that fuel supply disruption was easing slightly with some 659 of its petrol stations in France partially or completely out of fuel compared with 784 the previous day. Total controls 2,200 of France's 11,500 petrol stations.

French riot police removed picketers and barricades blocking access to a large fuel distribution depot near the Donges oil refinery in western France as President Francois Hollande warned anti-reform protesters on Friday he would not let them strangle the economy.