Norwegian OFS Union Threatens Strike

The Norwegian oil workers' union, OFS, has threatened a strike for workers on exploration rigs on Friday after negotiations with employers broke off. "We are threatening a strike by 800 workers," OFS union leader Terje Nustad said. He said that the union had not set a date for a strike but that a state mediator was likely to be appointed in early June and would then, under Norwegian rules, have two weeks to avert a strike.

The Norwegian Shipowners' Association said talks with the OFS union, which has a total of 5,500 members, broke down even though it reached agreement with the NOPEF and DSO unions in parallel talks.

The Association said the talks with all unions covered members on 16 drilling rigs, two production ships and some other installations but not major production platforms. The agreements were worth an extra 0.45 percent rise on top of an existing pay deal for 2002-03. Nustad said that the OFS was focusing its demands on greater protection of workers with long service from termination.

"These rigs do drilling work and not production, so any strike would not immediately affect oil and gas production. But it depends a bit on what jobs the rigs are doing," Shipowners' Association spokeswoman Marit Ytreeide said.

Nustad also said that most workers were on exploration rigs but that the Varg oil production ship, owned by Petroleum Geo Services could be affected. The Varg field produces about 25,000 barrels per day.

Norway is the world's number three oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia and pumps about 3.0 million barrels per day.