Open ended Total strikes cast shadow over propylene availability

19 February 2010 11:34  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nel Weddle and Franco Capaldo

Total petrochemical facility LONDON (ICIS news)--The continuing strike by workers at Total's refineries in France has raised questions about the availability of propylene in Europe, a source close to the situation said on Friday.

Employees on Thursday voted for an unlimited strike at all six refineries in France, prompting some market sources to suggest that force majeure could be called on propylene in the near future due to a lack of supply.

Around 2,000 direct employees and 5,000 suppliers and subcontractors of the refineries went on strike for 48 hours on Wednesday to demand a restart of the petrochemical giant’s Dunkirk site, which has been idle since September and was likely to be closed down.

However, workers involved with the refineries at Gonfreville-L'Orcher, La Mede, Donges, Grandpuits, Feyzin and Dunkirk rallied for the strike to be open ended, which sparked fears over possible supply shortages.

The source said Total had been negotiating with unions, however all refineries were prepared to stop if demands were not met. The refineries at Grandpuits, Donges and La Mede have already started ramping down.

Even if discussions were positive, the best Total could expect was that the refineries would run at minimum rates, the source added.

Total was also assessing the possible impact of workers at steam crackers petitioning in solidarity to demand answers over the future of the Dunkirk site.

The source said that Total was ready to discuss Dunkirk, which employs 370 people, with unions but it has been under pressure to avoid embarrassing the French government before its regional elections in March.

($1 = €0.74)

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