PARIS (AP) — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has announced a decision to requisition workers operating the gasoline depots of ExxonMobil’s French branch, Esso, and threatened to do the same with those of the Total group, amid of strikes that have left fuel pumps in the country without fuel.
The drastic move came as drivers waiting in long lines to fill their cars and filling stations closed while waiting for deliveries have become an increasingly familiar sight in France in recent days.
The searches allow authorities to order some of the gas depot workers affected by the strikes to return to work. It was not immediately clear how the order would be enforced. A similar measure was imposed in 2010 during strikes at French refineries.
Speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Borne said that around 30% of France’s service stations are experiencing a temporary shortage of at least one or more types of fuel. He pointed out that the strong differences between the regions, the Paris area and the north of France being the places most affected, making life difficult for drivers.
She called for an urgent dialogue between unions and management as strikers seek wage increases amid rising inflation in the country.
“A salary disagreement does not justify blocking the country,” he said.
Borne’s announcement comes a day after an agreement was reached between two unions and Esso management on a wage increase. However, some other far-left unions have rejected this and have decided to continue the strike.
“I asked the prefects to start the procedure to requisition the workers who are essential for the operation” of the Esso gasoline depots, Borne said.
She added that she is ready to make a similar decision regarding Total facilities if salary negotiations do not start quickly.
Panic buying by some people worried that stations will run out of fuel is exacerbating the problems motorists face, though authorities are urging consumers not to worry. Government officials said they increased gasoline imports and freed up some of the state’s strategic reserves to help ease shortages.
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