Nigerian Unions/NNPC Talks Deadlocked; Strike Still On

LAGOS Sep 8, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

A meeting between state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNP.YY) and representatives of Nigeria's two oil unions in Abuja Friday ended deadlocked, leaving in place a three-day strike planned for Sept. 13, a union official close the meeting said.

A similar meeting called by the Nigerian Ministry of Labor Thursday didn't get going as one of the unions, citing late information, failed to attend, the official added.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers, or Nupeng, say plan the three-day "warning strike" to protest insecurity in the Niger Delta area, where violence has already claimed the lives of two of their members this year.

Attacks by Niger Delta militants, who are fighting to get a bigger share of the country's oil revenues for people of that region, have cut Nigeria's crude oil output by about 593,000 barrels per day, or just over 30% of the country's output of 2.5 million b/d.

At Friday's meeting, Funsho Kupolokun, Group Managing Director of NNPC, unsuccessfully appealed to the unions to negotiate with the government and avert the strike. "We told him that we do not want to negotiate because we intend to hit production. We want to pull our members out of the platforms from Wednesday," the union official said.

The Ministry of Labor has rescheduled its parley with the unions for Monday. Officials who attended Friday's meeting with NNPC have been requested to stay in Abuja over the weekend in Abuja to enable them attend the meeting, according to the union official.

Levi Ajuonuma, NNPC's spokesman, was unavailable to comment on the day's events.

Pengassan and Nupeng threaten to withdraw their services indefinitely if after the warning strike government fails to address the problems in the Niger Delta.

This year alone, scores of oil workers, most of them foreign, have been kidnapped and released by the militants, usually after the payment of a ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

However, two Nigerian oil workers, one of them an employee of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.LN), and the other an employee of an oil service company, were killed while in captivity.

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