September 17, 2019 / 11:54 AM / a month ago

EDF unions plan massive strike to stop proposed restructuring

PARIS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - EDF unions have called a strike for Sept. 19 to protest plans to restructure the heavily indebted state-controlled utility, a walkout they say could cut power generation.

The restructuring plan, known as ‘Project Hercule’ and requested by President Emmanuel Macron, could split EDF Group in two, according to a draft of the proposal presented to unions in June. EDF did not say whether it would involve job cuts.

Four unions covering a majority of France’s energy sector workers - hardliners FNME-CGT and FNEM-FO, and moderates FC-CFDT and CFE-CGC - have called the strike, which could prove the largest and most disruptive to hit the company this year.

Union officials have urged staff to gather outside the energy ministry in Paris or local administrations. They gave no concrete forecasts of the planned turnout or impact on EDF.

EDF declined to comment on the strike. A spokesman for the company said the planned restructuring would be presented to the government at the end of the year as requested.

“We expect reduced power output at the nuclear, hydro, gas and even coal power plants,” Sebastien Menesplier, secretary-general of the energy and mines branch of CGT, told journalists in Paris.

He said CGT will call for another strike on Sept. 24 and will discuss this with the other unions. “We hope to stop the calendar and push back EDF management and the government on this project,” he said.

Under the terms of the plan, EDF would be divided into ‘EDF Blue’, which would hold its nuclear power generation, hydro power and transmission businesses, and ‘EDF Green’, which would house its commercial and distribution activities, including grid operator Enedis.

The state would maintain its 83% holding of EDF Blue. EDF Blue would in turn keep 65% of EDF Green, while 35% would be sold to private shareholders.

“The restructuring will not resolve EDF’s issues. Workers and customers will pay the price,” said CGT union representative Philippe Page Le Merour. “This will only allow the financial world to play Monopoly with the company.”

“There is urgency to give EDF the means to invest and provide electricity to all at an affordable prices,” Le Merour said, adding that the proposed plan would instead weaken the company and increase power prices.

“We hope to stop the project. For us we are looking beyond EDF, we are also calling workers in the gas sector also who are threatened by this deregulation that the government is pushing in various sectors,” Menesplier said. (Reporting by Paris Newsroom; Editing by Sarah White and Jan Harvey)

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