Total refineries: do the strikers really earn 5000 euros per month?

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A statement that did not fail to react. This week, TotalEnergies said in a statement that its employees earn 5,000 euros gross per month on average, a figure they say includes salary, bonuses and profit-sharing.

This average would only take into account the lowest salaries, as France TV reports. Still according to the group, profit-sharing and participation bonuses would rise this year between 7,000 and 9,000 euros, in proportion to the record profit of TotalEnergies this year: 14 billion euros, four times more than in 2020.

The same motivations led the group to announce at the end of September the payment of an exceptional dividend of 2.62 billion euros to its shareholders, according to the newspaper Le Monde.

This announcement hit the mark, on the side of the strikers but also on that of the consumers, heavily impacted by the shortages caused by the strike. Indeed, in a call for testimonies published by Le Monde, several readers considered the attitude of the strikers “shameful” after reading the figures communicated by Total.

According to Thierry Defresne, CGT secretary at TotalEnergies who confided in Le Monde yesterday, this is exactly the effect expected by the group.

The unions have been loudly contesting this figure since its announcement, and continue to demand a 10% wage increase, of which 7% is linked to inflation, and 3% to Total’s unrivaled profits this year. According to the CGT, the salary of Total workers would not exceed 2,500 euros at the start of their career, which could rise to 3,000 for an employee with 20 years of seniority. Added to these figures are the bonuses for night work, arduous work, and risk but which, even combined, do not allow to reach 5000 euros according to the strikers.

Upifem, the French Union of Petroleum Industries, Energy and Mobility, has published estimated figures that correlate the disputes of the unions. According to her, an employee at the start of his career in a refining company earns around 2,740 euros gross per month. A salary that would amount to nearly 4800 euros after 20 years of experience, as reported by Le Monde. However, L’Union also highlights the fact that 85% of employees in the branch have a real salary that is more than 10% higher than the contractual minimums.

According to the statements of Upifem, and according to the daily newspaper Le Monde, the figures put forward by the energy giant would realistically be closer to the salaries of refinery operators who have accumulated seniority, than to those average employees. In addition, refinery operators represent a minority of employees at Total: just under 4,000 employees out of nearly 35,000 Total employees in France, or just under 10%, according to France TV.

Finally, keep in mind that numbers can say a lot… This is particularly the case for averages, which can actually hide big disparities. A median salary amount would have been more revealing, but the company did not respond to requests for this figure from Le Monde…