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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire UCL - AL #304 - Back on the strikes of winter 2019-2020 -- Refineries: Strike Taken, Not Blockage (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 11 May 2020 07:49:15 +0300


Why did the oil refineries, on the front line in the fight against the Labor Law in 2016, remain behind during the strikes of winter 2019-2020 ? Some were however on a renewable strike - up to 43 days at Grandpuits -, but the CGT was unable to obtain a complete shutdown of the installations. Lighting. ---- At the beginning of January 2020, when the SNCF and the RATP were entering their fifth week of strike, concern was growing. Certainly, the movement had beautifully stepped over the "Christmas truce" and remained determined. But the arrival of the first payrolls at zero euros was going to hurt. Returning to work threatened. What sector could then play the role of locomotive of the struggle ? ---- All eyes were on the oil refineries, spearheading the challenge to the Fillon reform in 2010, and then the El Khomri law in 2016. What about in 2020 ?

Level 1 and level 2 of wrestling
In an establishment classified as Seveso 2, such as a refinery, the strike follows specific procedures to avoid any accident. In terms of the balance of power, there is sort of level 1 and level 2. At level 1, we go on strike, but without stopping the installations: production continues at a minimum, but the fuel does not leave the site. At level 2, the installations are forced to shutdown: this is a more sensitive operation, which spans several days and blocks everything for a long time, since the restart itself will take several days.

The CGT is in the majority in seven out of eight refineries (see box below) and, as soon as it appeared that the date of December 5, 2019 could be the starting point for a large-scale struggle, the National Federation of Industries chemical (Fnic), which ranks in the fighting wing of the CGT, rolled up its sleeves. On October 22, she called a renewable strike from December 5.

Within Fnic, the refinery unions have their own coordination, led by Thierry Defresne, central union representative for Total refineries. Together, the activists prepared for the battle, while being aware that the climate would be less buoyant than four years ago. "Employees often have a disillusioned memory of the 2016 struggle, notes Defresne. Many experienced it as a "proxy strike" which saw them acclaimed as heroes, of course, but rather isolated heroes who lost out after more than three weeks on strike..."Before December 5, the feedback from the field was therefore quite mixed. The employees said they were ready to participate in an overall movement, but certainly not to take the lead. Go on strike, yes. Stop the installations ? It would depend on events ...

To this circumspection were added contrasting local conjunctures. In Donges, the site, which is quite unsuitable for the market, is threatened, and Total is blackmailing investments. Feyzin had already gone on strike for 52 days in the fall, on a local subject, and it was going to be difficult to start again. La Mède is experiencing some insecurity: in 2019, it was converted to agrofuel, and its economic viability is uncertain. As for the two Exxon refineries, they are traditionally less combative.

Nevertheless, the trade unionists have set to work. It was a question of convincing the colleagues for the great meeting of December 5.

In 2010 (here at Grandpuits) as in 2016, refinery workers, at the forefront of the struggle, were acclaimed as heroes. They often have the mixed memory of having fought for others.
cc Daniel Maunoury
On D-Day, early in the morning, at each site, when shifts are made, employees gather in front of the gates, under union flags. We speak, we count, we vote. And the result is uneven: only Grandpuits, Gonfreville[1], La Mède and Lavéra go on a renewable strike, but without stopping the installations. Donges decides to strike intermittently: 72 hours a week. Feyzin will only respond to national action days. And the two Exxon sites do not move, or very little.

The prefecture requisitions Grandpuits
Participation is therefore real, with real strikes ... but only a halt in production can impress power. How to do it ? The tactics of Fnic-CGT consist in fixing the date of a truly simultaneous action on the eight refineries: 48, 72 or 96 hours of strike "all at the same time". This would give the strikers confidence to go further, and go to "level 2".

Problem: it can't be pinned. Despite the tours, the discussions - 3 GA per day on strike sites, for the participation of the 5 teams working in 3 × 8 -, the negotiations with FO, no common date is suitable. However, we feel that it would not miss much for a switch to blocking. The strikers at Petroineos, for example, began to shut down certain installations between the holidays. In Grandpuits, the young workers refuse to take over to force the older, more reluctant, to shut down the installations - but before getting there, the prefecture requisitions them to force them to provide security.

At the beginning of January, finally, a shooting window opens. While the decline threatens the SNCF and the RATP, the federations of the CGT and FO Chemistry agree on a call for 96 hours of non-stop strike, from January 7, on the eight refineries. And it works ... almost. The 96-hour strike is well followed - even at Exxon - but the GAs do not vote to stop the installations. Even on a stronghold like Grandpuits, this option collects only 45% of the votes. Mass has been said. The refineries will not be the much awaited relay.

After the national action day of January 9, the movement therefore inexorably declined. "We have failed to overcome the reluctance of employees, regrets Thierry Defresne. However, the best strategy to create a balance of power remains that of 2016: shutdown of installations and total blockage of production."

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

THE REFINING LANDSCAPE
Hexagon has eight refineries. Five depend on the Total group: Donges (Loire-Atlantique), Feyzin (Rhône), Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne), Gonfreville (Seine-Maritime) and la Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône). Two belong to the United States ExxonMobil: Gravenchon (Seine-Maritime) and Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône). Finally, the Anglo-Chinese Petroineos operates the Lavéra site (Bouches-du-Rhône).

The La Mède refinery is a special case: until 2015 it processed 7.5 million tonnes of crude oil per year. Since its conversion in 2019, it has produced 500,000 tonnes of agrofuel annually. It is called "biofuel" for advertising reasons, while it is not organic. It is produced from palm oil (a major cause of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia), rapeseed and animal fats.

The CGT dominates in seven refineries. FO is the majority only in Feyzin.

Validate

[1] Gonfreville, however, will end the strike after nine days: on the night of December 13, in fact, a fire on the site will force a complete shutdown of the installations. Three months later, they have still not restarted.

https://www.unioncommunistelibertaire.org/?Raffineries-La-greve-a-pris-pas-le-blocage
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