French refinery workers extend strike past Christmas

View of the logo of French oil giant Total in front of the oil refinery of Donges, near Nantes, December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - Workers at three of Total's oil refineries in France voted on Tuesday to extend their 12-day-old strike for at least another 48 hours, keeping a third of the country's refining capacity idle.

Striking staff, led by the CGT union, are locked in a pay dispute with Total, which has refused to reopen talks after other unions approved a deal this month.

Total and French oil industry lobby UFIP have said there is no short-term risk of fuel shortages as seen during a previous large-scale refinery strike in 2010.

CGT officials said workers had approved the 48-hour strike extension so they could spend the Christmas holiday at home and avoid daily votes at worker assemblies.

The affected sites, which produce mainly gasoline and diesel for motorists, are the 247,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery in Normandy, the 153,000 bpd La Mede plant in the south and the 109,000 bpd Feyzin refinery near Lyon.

"The action is continuing," said Christian Votte, a CGT official at Total's refining branch. "The latest step at Gonfreville and the other sites on strike is the extension of the action until at least Thursday lunchtime."

A move by local authorities to order workers to maintain minimum staff levels for safety reasons had hardened the mood among striking staff, the CGT said.

The potential impact of the strike has been curbed by the end of the walkout on Sunday at a fourth Total refinery, the 219,000 bpd Donges plant in western France.

Total operates five of France's eight oil refineries. The three plants not run by Total are not affected by the strike.

UFIP said on Friday that oil imports and the use of depot stocks were preventing supply shortages.

Wholesale market gasoline prices in northwest Europe rose on Tuesday as Total looked to buy, traders said.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz, editing by William Hardy)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting