Norwegian Unions Will Restart Negotiations on Friday

Talks between the two Norwegian oil workers unions and employer officials will resume on Friday under the guidance of a state mediator. The talks will begin at 1200 local time. This follows a breakdown in negotiations Tuesday afternoon that triggered a strike threat by the unions.

The Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Union, or NOPEF, and the Oil Workers Union, or OSF, warned around 500 workers could go on strike June 17 if an agreement isn't reached with employers about additional holiday time.

The unions have set a deadline of midnight local time (2200 GMT) June 16 for a resolution. The current strike warning covers 260 NOPEF and 233 OFS members. If carried out the, strike would affect the Troll A, Jotun A and B, Valhall, and Ula fields in the North Sea, and the companies affected would be Statoil, ExxonMobil Corp. unit Esso Norge AS, BP PLC unit BP Amoco Norge UA, Universal Sodexho, and Prosafe Drilling Services.

A Norwegian Oil Industry Association, or OLF, spokesman this would cut output by 150,000 barrels of oil a day, as well as 50 million standard cubic meters of gas. "The estimated value is around 80 million kroner a day," Leif Harald Halvorsen, OLF's acting director of communication, said. Norway 's average daily oil production in April was 3.157 million bbl, while average daily production for natural gas liquids was 181,000 bbl, the latest figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate show.

Only a portion of union members are actually affected by the current dispute, this covers around 3,000-4,000 of NOPEF's 17,000 members, and 2,300 of OSF's 5, 500 members, union officials say. The unions are arguing for more holidays for these workers on fixed platforms. At the moment, these workers work two weeks and get three weeks off, and in the following cycle two weeks of work gives four weeks off. The unions want two weeks at work and four weeks off all the time.

"We cannot understand why they don't want this on fixed platforms since mobile platforms already have such an agreement," Bjoern Tjessem, first deputy president of OFS said. Oil workers on mobile platforms managed to negotiate for two weeks on and four weeks off with employers last year.

However, employers say that they cannot accept such a blanket agreement for diverse employment situations. "We represent operators, but we also represent catering companies and a drilling company - so having an overall agreement on this point wouldn't be good," said OLF's Halvorsen. He added the employers have offered that individual local agreements be made with the companies involved but this has so far been rejected by the unions.