France orders gas station attendants to return to work

PARIS (HPD) — French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Wednesday that the situation at the country’s gas stations would soon return to “normal” after the government began forcing some workers at Esso gas stations, the French subsidiary of ExxonMobil, to return to work, in the midst of a strike that is making life difficult for motorists in the country.

“The question everyone is asking is: ‘when are we going to get back to normal?’ That will be in the course of next week,” Macron told France 2 television on Wednesday night.

The situation has been created by “social conflicts in two companies, Exxon and Total, which made huge profits” due to the high prices of oil and gasoline in the midst of the global energy crisis that was aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, said.

Macron called for “responsibility” from both company executives and unions.

“I am saying it very clearly: if the social dialogue does not work in the next few hours, we will make more requirements to return to work,” he warned.

Many gas stations have had to close and in others long lines of vehicles have formed due to fuel shortages.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne has asked prefectures to order the reinstatement of Esso petrol station workers, two days after an agreement was reached between two unions and company management on a wage increase. But some ultra-left unions have rejected the agreement and continued the strike.

The government is considering a similar decision on Total’s facilities, depending on the outcome of wage negotiations that began on Wednesday.

“French government spokesman Olivier Veran told a news conference that the consequences of the strike have become “unbearable for many French people”.

“There are people who can’t go to work, others can’t take their children to school, go shopping or even get medical treatment,” Veran said.

The laws allow authorities to order the return to work of employees at gas depots affected by strikes. A similar measure was taken in 2010 during strikes at French refineries.

The order stipulates that a small number of workers — fewer than 10 under the regulations — must return to their jobs to ensure the delivery of essential services.

Borne said on Tuesday that 30% of the country’s gas stations are experiencing shortages of at least one type of fuel, with the Paris metropolitan area and northern France the most affected regions.


Associated Press writer Barbara Surk in Nice contributed to this report.

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