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TotalFina-Elf merger: French Unions Protest over LPG Sell-off

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18 July, 2005ICEM News Release No. 11/2000

French unions in Elf Antargaz called a strike on 8 February, as a pledge to sell the company sparked fears of major job losses.

Owned by Elf-Aquitaine, Antargaz is France's second-biggest supplier of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Elf's pledge to sell Antargaz was one of the main elements cited by the European Commission yesterday when it announced its approval of a merger between Elf and TotalFina. The new company will be the world's fourth-biggest oil group.

To secure the go-ahead from the EU Commission, the companies also undertook to sell off 70 TotalFina service stations along the French motorways and Elf's jet fuel supply business at Lyon and Toulouse airports.

Elf Antargaz workers have been mobilised by French energy unions the FCE-CFDT and CFE-CGC. Some 200 demonstrators marched to the headquarters of Elf Antargaz and TotalFina, where they lobbied the human resources director.

The FCE-CFDT said it will be "extremely demanding" on the conditions for the Antargaz sale. In particular, the union will "reject any dismantling of the enterprise, because separate disposal of different activities (butane, propane, small-scale bulk, bottled gas ...) would mean ceding market share and sacrificing jobs."

Any purchaser of Antargaz must, the FCE-CFDT insists, "be in a position to implement industrial and commercial policies that will guarantee the development of the enterprise and of employment."

Current collective agreements for oil industry workers must continue to apply in Antargaz after any sell-off, the union emphasises.

The TotalFina-Elf case led the FCE-CFDT to criticise the inadequacy of unions' information and consultation rights in the case of company mergers - see ICEM UPDATE 3/2000.

The French union, which is affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), is pressing for better EU legislation on this.