The logo of French oil and gas company TotalEnergies is seen on an oil tank at TotalEnergies fuel depot in Mardyck near Dunkirk as France’s trade unions announced a nationwide day of strike and protests in key sectors like energy, public transport, air tr
By Forrest Crellin, Benjamin Mallet and America Hernandez
PARIS (Reuters) -A nationwide strike against pension reform in France led to a substantial fall in electricity output and halted deliveries from refineries operated by TotalEnergies and Esso on Thursday.
The rate of striking workers that are a part of the Electric and Gas Industries union (IEG) exceeded 50% by midday, a spokesperson for the CFDT union said.
“There is a strong mobilisation … at midday, with activity stoppages, but no desire to block or damage (the industry) for the moment,” the union source said.
Data from Power group EDF (EPA:EDF) and grid operator RTE showed electricity production was down by 6.6 gigawatts (GW) at midday, roughly 10% of total power production, which they said was due to the strike.
This prompted France to raise its imports from Britain, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.
EDF’s outage table showed a 3.4 GW nuclear supply drop at eight reactors, 460 megawatts (MW) of reduced hydropower and 2.7 GW of lower thermal production.
Also, the return of the 910 MW Gravelines 3 reactor would likely be delayed following the protests, EDF said on its outage page.
Around 44.5% of the total EDF workforce was on strike at midday, about 8 percentage points higher than the record rate set on Dec. 5, 2019 during previous pension reform protests, an EDF spokesperson said.
Later on Thursday or on Friday, unions will ask employees to renew the strike at several of the blocked reactors, FNME-CGT spokesperson Virginie Neumayer told Reuters.
Meanwhile, deliveries of refined oil products were blocked from leaving refineries operated by TotalEnergies, the company said.
The CGT union expects that at least 70% of its refinery sector employees at TotalEnergies’ four refining sites will have joined the strike in opposition to government plan to raise the retirement age by two years to 64, a CGT representative said.
At Esso, run by Exxon, about 88% of the workforce was on strike at the Fos site, where shipments were blocked, a union source said. However, work was continuing at the company’s Port Jerome site.
TotalEnergies has said there would be no disruption to fuel supplies at service stations from just one day of protests.
Power group Engie also reported about 40% of its workers who belonged to the IEG union were on strike and around 7% of other staff joined them. The group does not anticipate consequences for its customers at this stage.
Thursday was the first day of industrial action in the energy sector, due to be followed by a two-day strike next week and a 72-hour strike starting Feb. 6, Christophe Aubert, CGT coordinator for ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), said.
“The big, strong action will really be happening beginning February 6th, which is the day where the proposed pension reform is presented to the National Assembly,” he added.
Trade unions have called on workers across the public and private sector to walk out on their jobs and take to the streets in protest against government’s plans.
The government has said it will stand its ground and called on workers not to paralyse the country.