Strike closes diesel units at Exxon’s Fos-sur-Mer refinery: Union

29 Jun 2022

Quantum Commodity Intelligence - Workers at the French ExxonMobil oil refinery in Fos-sur-Mer have shut down two units that desulfurize gasoil and are planning to close additional processing capacity in a dispute over pay, the French CGT Union said on Wednesday.

The strike at the 140,000 bpd site near Marseille in southeast France started Tuesday at 1300 local time, with the units shut by the evening as workers demanded a pay increase in line with inflation.

"The two GOHFs (diesel desulphurization units) are stopped and the KHF (gasoline desulphurization unit) will follow. We are fully determined, and we are at a point of no return," the CGT Union said in an updated statement on Wednesday morning.

Exxon declined to confirm the closures of the units.

The US oil major, which also operates the 240,000-bpd Port Jerome Gravenchon refinery near Le Havre and several terminals, confirmed that a "limited number of employees" have joined the strike action at Fos.

"We are doing our best efforts to mitigate any potential impacts on our customers," an Exxon spokesperson told Quantum, adding that its other northern refinery and its terminals are not impacted.

Fos represents around 10% of France's refined oil output.

Pain au chocolat

The dispute between Exxon and its employees started in early March when road fuel prices started to rally following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with employees demanding a higher fuel discount at Exxon's forecourts.

Exxon then agreed to issue an additional fuel discount of €0.02 per litre for its employees, the union said, which on a 50-litre tank is "equivalent to the price of a pain au chocolat".

"This is how much consideration you have for the employees in your group."

Since then, the CGT union has been ramping up its demands for higher pay as inflation in France reached a 30-year high of 5.8% in May, while Exxon has been holding off on salary talks.

"The silence only has an effect of increasing the anger of the staff of the sites of the group," the union said.

"We hear and understand the challenge that many are facing. Leveraging our sound and robust salary program, we proposed to anticipate our yearly salary bargaining by a few months," Exxon told Quantum.

Last Friday, the CGT held strikes at TotalEnergies' five French refineries, keeping the sites running but blocking oil product deliveries in a similar pay dispute.