Refining | - Total in France

Based on a true story

My brother Rémy and I were born in Donges in a modest family of four children. Our father was a fitter at the Atlantic Shipyards.

The Donges refinery has always been on our side. When we were kids, we used to look at all these pipes and chimneys that we were very intrigued by. Above all, I had noticed that the families whose men worked at the refinery had a much higher standard of living than others. I regularly saw the refinery manager drive by with his sumptuous American car, which fascinated me; I promised myself, at the age of five, that I would one day become the refinery manager so that I too could have a big car. It was impossible for us to escape the refinery; it was physically and mentally omnipresent. At the time when the Loire was not dredged, we frequented a beach from which we came out with slightly pinkish skin because we were bathing in the warm water discharged by the refinery. 

In 1962, my brother and I did our first internships there to pay for our studies, working in various small trades such as bin measurer, driver or pump greaser... I had found that the workers on the shift were a real corporation. They never saw the bosses and their information only came from the unions. Observing this, I told myself that if I was given responsibilities, I would go and talk to the operators on a regular basis. This is what I did when I became refinery manager in 1991, after an initial 9-year experience at Donges and then as Deputy General Manager of the Grandpuits and Feyzin refineries.

My childhood dream had come true! As for the boss's car, which I admired as a child, I found it reduced by half and, as soon as I was appointed Director, I abolished the position of driver. I then always spent several hours a week talking to the postmen during my tenure as director. A dialogue that intrigued everyone. Admittedly, not everything was always rosy... In particular, I had to face a tough strike after long negotiations to modernize the refinery and cut jobs.

On the strength of this experience, I left Germany to participate in the construction of the Leuna refinery. A refinery where my brother Remy also worked. Like me, Remy fell into oil as a child. He had a great career with the bands Antar, Elf and then Total. He also had the chance to take part in the great era of the 80s to build the "Grand Donges" and turn it into a state-of-the-art industrial tool. He also experienced the transition from Antar, which was a fairly hierarchical company, to Elf, which blew up the "corset" and conventions.

At the time, the local management of Antar "forbade" non-executives to fly. The worker was only entitled to the 2nd class train, the supervisor to the 1st class train and the aircraft to the aircraft. When the Grand Donges construction site started under Elf's leadership, these hierarchical barriers fell. Elf's primary goal is efficiency. My brother Rémy was the first non-executive to fly to Paris. Both of us share a lot of the same views and values. So we had no problem working together in Donges while I ran the refinery. On the other hand, Rémy abstained from voting in the professional elections! The proof is that we followed each other to Germany in Leuna before Remy left for Africa. Today, we're back home in Donges where Remy is a city councillor. The Donges refinery has been our life like many other families who, like ours, have experienced a real social rise while participating in a remarkable industrial epic. Our greatest pride? That Donges was ranked as one of the 5 most efficient refineries in Europe in the 1990s. And our dearest wish today? Let it regain this rank thanks to the promising investments Total has just decided to make.

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