'Worst moment' for strikes amid energy crisis: France gov spox
Olivier Véran believes nationwide strikes should be halted on the basis that "Europe is at war" and that now is the "worst moment" to interfere with the functioning of France's economy.
In light of recent demonstrations that took place across the country over low wages and the increased cost of living, French government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Wednesday that the authorities recognized citizens right to protest.
But he added that now was the "worst moment" for impeding the government's normal operations since inflation and the energy crisis have already made life more challenging for the French people.
"We call for responsibility: Europe is at war. We are facing unprecedented climate challenges, the immediate need to solve the energy crisis, inflation that the government is fighting and unemployment. Yes, we need to discuss the level of wages and working conditions — we welcome social dialogue. However, we believe that now is not the time to call for a blockade of the state and interfere with the functioning of our economy. Now, without a doubt, is the worst moment for this," Veran said.
Read more: Mass protests held across Paris over inflation, low salaries
Over the past month, oil refinery workers have been protesting to earn a 10% pay raise as well as the indexing of 2022 wages to match the record-breaking inflation.
Oil giants ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies have amassed massive amounts of wealth after a price surge allowed the companies to commission big dividends to board members and additional special dividends to their investors.
The protests are generally spearheaded by the CGT and the Forces Ouvrières unions which both have a wide network of workers from various key sectors in the French economy.
These include foremost the energy and nuclear sectors, public transport, agri-food, banking, and commerce sectors, as well as education and public healthcare sectors.
The ministry reported that more than 100,000 people took part in the demonstrations, with alone 13,000 in Paris, to demand higher wages.
At present, one in three gas stations in France is now shut due to fuel shortages. The strikes have caused a reduction of France’s total refinery output by more than 60% equivalent to 740,000 barrels of gasoline a day.
On October 11, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne unapologetically told oil refinery workers that they need to "learn how to stop a strike" and further threatened workers that the government was prepared to use force to order staff at depots run by Exxon's Esso France unit back to work, with similar measures possible at Total depots if wage talks don't lead to a solution.
The CGT union called the government's plans violent and suspended all ongoing negotiations with it.
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