Gabon's Oil Workers Start Strike, Petrol Queues Appear


LIBREVILLE, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Oil workers in Gabon began an open-ended, industry-wide strike on Monday night after talks with the government collapsed, union ONEP said, and long queues formed at gas stations on Tuesday on fear of shortages.

The trade union had been in negotiations with authorities of the Central African country for several weeks, demanding the reinstatement of some workers who had been fired by oil companies, among other issues.

"The national bureau informs you of the start of an unlimited general strike in all oil sector companies and related activities operating in the national territory from Monday Dec. 1 at midnight," said a union statement addressed to the workers and seen by Reuters.

Gabon, a former OPEC member, pumps around 230,000 barrels of oil per day. Sylvain Mayabi Bine, secretary general of the union, said the strike affected oil production and fuel distribution as well as the oil services sector.

A spokesperson for the oil ministry denied that a strike was planned on Tuesday.

Total, one of the top producers in the former French colony, said that there was no immediate impact on its output. Producers Royal Dutch Shell and Sinopec's Addax did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Tuesday, long queues formed at petrol stations in the capital as consumers scrambled to fill their cars and get reserves before the strike depleted supplies.

"I'm taking precautions. It is better to have 20 litres of fuel at home in case things get bad," said a driver at a petrol station in the capital, without giving his name.

ONEP, the umbrella union for the oil trade, represents a majority of its more than 5,000 workers. In a separate letter to Gabon's prime minister, ONEP said it would return to talks only if the government met four demands.

They included the immediate suspension of some salary deductions and the lifting of sanctions by oil firms Perenco and STSI Boccard on some workers.

The union also called for the manager of STSI Boccard, which is subcontracted by French oil giant Total, to be expelled from the country, as well as the departure of the director general of Libya Oil Gabon.

(Additional reporting by Emma Farge; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by David Lewis and William Hardy)


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