Nigerian Oil Workers Threaten To Strike

The white-collar oil and gas workers union in Nigeria has given a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government to cancel privatization plans for the NNPC or face a strike. The union said that while it agreed on the need to streamline the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, a privatization would not serve Nigeria's strategic interests and would lead to unnecessary job cuts.

Bayo Olowoshile, acting deputy secretary general of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said the union was ready to launch a two-day "warning strike" if the government did not address its concerns by August 14. "This will be followed by a series of industrial actions which will have a far-reaching effect on Nigeria's oil and gas sector," he said. PENGASSAN members are drawn from oil multinationals operating in the country and its strikes have in the past disrupted crude oil production and exports.

The NNPC, which supervises Nigeria's mainstay oil industry, holds an average 57 percent controlling stake in joint ventures with six oil majors led by Nigeria's top producer Shell.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration commercialized the operations of the NNPC in May, as a first major step towards its planned privatization next year. More than a dozen NNPC subsidiaries have also been slated for sale and in January Nigeria's privatization agency BPE said it would begin the sale of the four NNPC refineries before the end of the year. PENGASSAN also wants the government to intervene in a long-standing industrial dispute between union members and ChevronTexaco, a union official said. The union says local Texaco staff have been unfairly treated as a result of last year's merger between the two oil companies.