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Total workers storm Dunkirk refinery, prepare for 48-hour strike

Video by FRANCE 2 , Georja CALVIN-SMITH


Latest update : 2010-02-17

Employees of oil giant Total's beleaguered Dunkirk refinery stormed the administrative building and occupied offices to protest a possible closure. Total workers across France will stage a 48-hour strike in solidarity beginning on Wednesday.

REUTERS - Workers at Total's troubled Dunkirk refinery stormed its administrative building and occupied management offices to protest against a possible closure, Total and a trade union source told Reuters on Tuesday.
Workers in all Total refineries across France will begin a 48 hour strike from Feb. 17 to back their Dunkirk colleagues, two Total trade union spokesmen told Reuters on Monday. Unions held a strike in early January but this did not impact supply.
About a hundred Dunkirk strikers on Tuesday pushed aside police and security forces in the hall of the administrative site to get to the offices, a union source said.
Total, Europe's largest refiner, said only about 30 strikers were occupying the offices of the plant that employs around 600 staff and stopped producing fuel products in September due to low margins and low demand.
The local director had left his office beforehand, both Total and the union source said.
"The management's offices were invaded this morning," Maxime Delanoix, head of communication at the Dunkirk refinery told Reuters by telephone. "There are about 30 people occupying the offices at the entrance of the site but they allow workers who are not striking to come and go."
Delanoix said these strikers were now holding a meeting to discuss future action.
French workers have held managers hostage several times amid increasingly bitter labour disputes as some companies cut costs to boost profits in times of recession by closing sites or slashing jobs.
A strike has been going on since mid-January at the 137,000 barrels-per-day Dunkirk refinery, which accounts for 13 percent of Total's refining capacities in France.
Total has been struggling for several years with its European refining branch and has vowed to cut production capacity by 500,000 bpd between 2007 and 2011.
The French group delayed on Feb. 1 a decision on whether to close Dunkirk permanently to avoid embarrassing the government before regional elections on March 14-21, analysts have said.
Total officials told Reuters on Monday the management would hold on March 29 an extraordinary meeting with unions to decide on the future of the plant.
But unions said they were fed up awaiting the fate of the refinery's future after
"The date of March 29 is too late. We've had enough, we want to be informed," said Philippe Wullens, representative of the Sud labour union.
Total has said no redundancies would take place if Dunkirk was closed and workers would either be offered another job in the group or be given early retirement.


Date created : 2010-02-16


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