PENGASSAN Says Talks End in Deadlock

PENGASSAN said it was disappointed with the progress of talks to end a lockout at Shell local offices now in its eighth day. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria said talks ended in a deadlock for a second day on Wednesday after Shell failed to assure the union that a planned company restructuring will not hit jobs. "We are really disappointed with the rate at which the talks are going," PENGASSAN National Deputy Secretary General Lumumba Okugbawa told Reuters.

"There was a stalemate at the talks yesterday with our in-house branch," Okugbawa added. "It is still the status quo, the talks are continuing today, but the strike is going on."

Officials of Shell, Nigeria's biggest oil producer, were not immediately available for comment. The oil major had said the lockout has not disrupted loadings and production, but was making day-to-day operations at its offices in the commercial hub of Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt more difficult.

PENGASSAN began the action Wednesday last week to protest at Shell's global restructuring program which the union fears will lead to the marginalization of Nigerians.

Shell said no decision has been taken to lay off some of the 5,000 Nigerians employed by its local unit, Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The union's several demands include moving Shell headquarters to Nigeria, appointing more Nigerians to top jobs, repatriating all non-technical expatriates and halting further recruitment of foreigners by Shell Nigeria.