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Shell workers in Nigeria walk off job in ‘warning strike’ to avert job cuts

Canada.com: Shell workers in Nigeria walk off job in ‘warning strike’ to avert job cuts

Canadian Press

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – Shell workers in three Nigerian cities walked off the job Tuesday in a “warning strike” intended to force the oil giant to abandon proposed job cuts, union and company officials said.

The country’s two main oil unions called the strike Monday afternoon in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri. The work stoppage was to continue until Tuesday night, a Shell spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Shell pumps about half of all oil produced in Nigeria, which is the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter. Nigeria accounts for one-tenth of Shell’s global production.

Strikers sang protest songs and prayed outside offices in the three cities on Tuesday. There was no violence reported and crude production and exports were not disrupted, a company spokesman said, stressing some workers “are complying, some are not complying” with the work stoppage. Both union and company officials refused to estimate how many workers took part.

The protest caught management by surprise because labour groups had not officially informed them of the work stoppage as required by Nigerian law, another Shell spokesman said.

Lumumba Okugbawa, deputy general-secretary of the white-collar union, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said the strike was intended to “sensitize management” to abandon leaked proposals to cut between 30-40 per cent of the company’s 5,000-strong work force here.

The cuts are part of proposals to trim production costs while boosting production by a half-million barrels a day.

Leaders of the white-collar union would meet Wednesday in the southern city of Benin with counterparts from the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria, which was also participating in the strike.

Shell officials stress the company has not decided whether to cut jobs under restructuring proposals.

The strike comes as Shell tries to contain fallout from a leaked Shell-funded report by international security consultants.

The report suggests rising criminal and ethnic violence could force the company to abandon onshore operations in the Niger Delta by 2008.

© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press

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