The EDF logo taken on January 18, 2022 in Flamanville, France ( AFP / Sameer Al-DOUMY )
More than 40% of EDF employees went on strike on Wednesday against the state’s request to sell more electricity at low prices to its competitors in order to contain the electricity bill of households and businesses, a decision whose they fear the consequences for the health of the group.
This participation in the movement, of an unprecedented level for many years according to union sources, rose on the day to “42.72% of the total workforce”, according to the group.
By way of comparison, the last major movements, against a project to reorganize the group, had been followed by 20% of the workforce in 2021 and by just over 25% in 2020.
According to the inter-union, more than one in two employees (51%) of the workforce present on Wednesday stopped work, the management basing itself according to it on the total workforce, “which takes into account people who are on leave -sickness, leave”, told AFP Amélie Henri, of the CFE-Unsa energies.
The inter-union must meet Thursday morning to decide on the follow-up to the movement, according to the CGT, which has already expressed the wish for other days of action, barring a reversal of the government.
Faced with soaring energy prices, the government has taken measures to contain bills and honor its promise to limit the increase in regulated electricity prices to 4% in 2022, a few weeks before the presidential election. .
Since the end of September, the government has multiplied decisions against the general increase in energy prices, with a “tariff shield” on gas, an allowance to compensate for inflation, particularly in gasoline, or even on Tuesday an increase in the scale of mileage allowance.
For electricity, he notably asked EDF to increase by 20% the volume of nuclear electricity sold at a reduced price to its competitors this year, to increase it from 100 to 120 terrawatt hours (TWh). This will cost the group around 8 billion euros.
The CEO himself expressed his “shock” at a difficult time for EDF.
The group is already grappling with new delays for the Flamanville EPR (Manche) and with a corrosion problem on the safety systems in several power plants.
Rallies took place on Wednesday in front of nuclear power plants, such as in Gravelines (North).
“What we are simply asking for is to stop this Arenh” (Regulated access to historical nuclear electricity, the mechanism that allows EDF to sell its electricity to its competitors at low cost), commented to the AFP Franck Redondo, secretary of the CSE EdF-CNPE of Gravelines.
“Or else, we ask Total, Direct Energie, the whole clique, (…) to invest in the future of French electricity. Because it’s easy to receive electricity and sell it at low cost, but to invest in nothing”, he added, in front of the power station, where about fifty employees were gathered behind a banner: “No to the sacrifice of EDF and unfair competition”.
– “Exceptional effort” –
The government, for its part, considers that as a group 84% owned by the State, it is normal for it to contribute to the effort to limit the rise in prices.
“The state is obviously alongside EDF,” assured government spokesman Gabriel Attal after the Council of Ministers.
“This effort is exceptional and linked to exceptional circumstances,” said Bercy, assuring that “the State will always, by all necessary means, alongside EDF and its employees”.
“From a macroeconomic point of view, we see the growing dependence of France, because we have abandoned a nuclear ambition. We are in the process of sacrificing EDF for short-term pre-election measures”, criticized David Lisnard, mayor de Cannes (LR) and president of the Association of Mayors of France, on RMC-Info.
Without government decisions, regulated prices would have jumped 45% on February 1, according to the regulator, which calculates annual increases based on market prices.
EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy on February 14, 2020 in Paris (AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
A rare fact, this measure moved even the highest levels of the company: in an internal message to EDF executives, CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy strongly criticized the government’s decision, a “real shock”, that he “fought”.