Exxon on brink of shut down at French Fos refinery due to strike

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil said on Friday that a strike by workers over pay was forcing it to gradually shut down operations at its Fos refinery plant in southern France.

"We have started preparations to gradually shut down the plant in the coming days. This situation may impact our customers, contractors, suppliers and employees in a challenging energy market environment," Esso France, a unit of the U.S. major, said.

The walkouts at Esso started on June 28.

Workers, who had warned their action would lead to shutting down the refining units, are demanding wage hikes to cover inflation. Wage negotiations are scheduled for September but the CGT union wants management to also commit to a bonus.

Based on current stocks, Esso France said it declared "force majeure" for some products, a legal term used when deliveries can't be made according to contracts due to extraordinary circumstances.

"We remain hopeful that the situation will be resolved through dialogue and efforts to seek a fair resolution," the company said.

The temporary shutdown of the Fos refinery, which has a capacity of around 7 million tonnes a year, or about 10% of French capacity, comes as a country-wide labour movement led by the hardline CGT union gains momentum.

Walkouts and blockades in recent days have also hit state-owned power utility EDF which lost several gigawatt of its nuclear power capacities, Engie and TotalEnergies .

The CFDT and CGT general trade unions told Reuters that France's second-largest gas storage facility, operated by Engie, was not receiving gas on Thursday and would not do so until Monday, because of strike action.

The CGT on Thursday also made a call for a country-wide strike across the sector next Monday.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Dominique Vidalon, Edmund Blair and Susan Fenton)

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