Friday, May 2, 2008

Nigeria oil union says to continue Exxon strike

ABUJA, April 30 (Reuters) - Striking oil workers who have shut down Exxon Mobil's production in Nigeria pledged to carry on their seven-day strike after failing to reach a deal with the U.S. oil major at talks on Wednesday.
A spokesman for state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC), which is mediating the talks, said earlier that leaders of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) had agreed to suspend the strike while talks continued.
But union leaders said the stoppage, which has shut down virtually all Exxon's 800,000 barrels per day of production in the West African country, would continue and the two sides would reconvene for negotiations at 1100 GMT on Thursday.
"We could not reach an agreement. Meanwhile, the strike continues," said Olusola George-Olumoriti, chairman of PENGASSAN's Mobil Producing Nigeria branch.
The strike and attacks by Niger Delta rebels have slashed production in Nigeria, the world's No. 8 oil exporter, by more than half, helping drive prices to a record high around $120 a barrel on Monday. Oil has fallen back more than $5 a barrel.
The dispute forced the U.S. oil major on Monday to declare force majeure on Nigerian shipments, meaning it could not fulfill contractural obligations to clients.
The first day of government-mediated negotiations broke up on Tuesday without agreement after union representatives called for a 25 percent salary increase and improvements to pensions and working conditions.
Delegates to the talks, who asked not to be identified, said that by Wednesday there was agreement on all points except the size of the salary increase.
"The mediators have asked both sides to return to the negotiating table. Hopefully we will be able to reach a solution," Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Gloria Essien-Danner had told Reuters earlier.
Exxon produces in a joint venture with the Nigerian state and its equity share is around 427,000 bpd.
The disruption came after a wave of attacks by the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which says it wants President Umaru Yar'Adua's government to give a greater share of oil revenues to the impoverished and polluted Delta region, which produces most of Nigeria's petroleum.
Royal Dutch Shell, the company hardest hit by the militants, said on Tuesday that attacks had forced it to shut in 164,000 bpd of production.
The cumulative oil production outage for Africa's most populous nation amounts to around 1.36 million bpd from its installed capacity of around 3 million bpd, temporarily making Angola sub-Saharan Africa's largest crude producer on around 1.9 million bpd.
Analysts say the upsurge in militant attacks appears linked to an acrimonious re-run of gubernatorial elections in oil-rich Bayelsa state and the trial of MEND factional leader Henry Okah, due to resume on May 2. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: ) (Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn in Lagos; Editing by David Gregorio)

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