UPDATE 4-Strike ends at Total's Grandpuits, continues at three other refineries

Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:04pm EST

Related Topics

* Workers at Grandpuits near Paris vote to end five-day stoppage

* Strike still affects some 613,000 barrels a day of output

* Units at Gonfreville, La Mede and Feyzin shutting down-unions

* Union leaders at striking plants in talks with local management

* No supply disruptions for weeks but logistics issues-Oil lobby (Recasts with Grandpuits vote, adds details, quotes)

By Muriel Boselli and Michel Rose

PARIS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Workers at Total's 99,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Grandpuits refinery near Paris have voted to end their five-day stoppage, leaving colleagues at three other plants still on strike in pursuit of a claim for improved pay deals.

"A clear majority of workers voted to end the strike," an official of the CFDT union at Grandpuits said. "We're putting the banners away," he added, noting some 59 percent of workers had voted to end the strike.

The vote came as Total's La Mede, Gonfreville and Feyzin refineries, with a total capacity of 613,000 bpd, saw a fifth day of strike action as workers belonging to the hardline CGT union stuck to pay demands.

CGT officials - whose union represents around a quarter of Total's refining workers - say the company has offered an increase of up to just 1.5 percent, but a Total spokeswoman said the pay package went up to 3.5 percent, including seniority and performance elements.

The dispute comes as refining in Europe has been hit by lower demand due to the economic slowdown, while overcapacity in the sector has also hit the margins of refiners such as Total - Europe's largest - forcing a number of plant closures.

Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said earlier this year European refiners will eventually have to shut down more plants.

CGT members argue that with group profit reaching 10.7 billion euros ($14.7 billion) in 2012, the company can afford bigger pay rises. But its European refining margins hit a four-year low earlier this year.

"The latest developments pile further pressure on refineries which are already struggling with dismal refining margins and negligible profitability," said analysts at JBC Energy in a note.

NOT ENOUGH

Union leaders at the three refineries which were still on strike agreed on Tuesday they would no longer contest an overall pay deal, signed on Monday by the moderate CFDT and CGC unions. But they submitted demands for staff at the individual plants.

"We are not contesting the overall deal any longer, but this is not enough for us to return to work," a top CGT official said. "We have just submitted pay rise proposals to the top management at each striking refinery."

Striking workers at the three plants will next vote at around lunchtime on Wednesday on whether to extend the strike.

Workers at another refinery, Donges, ended their strike on Monday after the CFDT and CGC signed a pay deal with management.

A Total spokeswoman said the strikes were not causing any major supply problem at French service stations.

Jean-Louis Schilansky, head of France's petroleum sector lobby group UFIP, said that while logistics were tight in certain areas in the north of Paris, supply disruptions for motorists were still weeks away.

"We are absolutely not in a crisis situation. More than half of French refineries operate normally," Schilansky said, adding logistic issues were not noticeable to consumers.

In the European diesel market, prices rose on Tuesday as Total bid for both cargoes and barges on offer in northwest Europe, in a sign the French refiner may be anticipating supply disruptions, traders said.

France's eight refineries have a production capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day, but focus on gasoline though French motorists mainly use diesel.

France imported between 17 and 18 million tonnes of diesel in 2012, making up about half of its consumption.

Production levels at the Grandpuits refinery, which had been marginally impacted, were due to gradually rise from 2100 GMT, the CFDT official said. ($1 = 0.7271 euros) (Additional reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Ron Bousso in London; Editing by David Evans and David Holmes)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.