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UpstreamOnline: Nigeria unions firm on strike

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(Downing tools in the delta: members of both the Pengassan and Nupeng unions are set to strike on Wednesday)

UpstreamOnline: Nigeria unions firm on strike

By Upstream staff

Nigerian oil unions said today there would be no going back on a three-day “warning strike” due to start on Wednesday, as they gathered for a last-gasp meeting with the government.

The two main unions, Pengassan and Nupeng, said talks with the labour ministry in the capital Abuja, due to start at 1300 GMT today, were coming too late to avert the planned protest over insecurity in the Niger Delta.

Warning strikes typically have no impact on oil output and exports from Africa’s top producer, because key workers often remain at their posts or are replaced by non-unionised staff.

“The talks will not change our decision on warning strike,” Nupeng president Peter Akpatason told Reuters.

“This fire-brigade approach of calling meetings when unions issue strike threats is not going to work this time,” he added.

The unions said they were concerned by a surge in violence and kidnappings of workers in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter. One of the hostages, a Nigerian employee of Shell, was killed during an attempt to release him last month.

The wave of kidnappings in August followed a series of abductions and attacks against oil facilities which forced Shell to evacuate hundreds of workers from its oilfields in the western delta in February, cutting output by about 500,000 barrels per day.

Minister of State for Petroleum Edmund Daukoru today estimated the amount of oil shut in from Nigeria because of militant attacks and pipeline leaks at 872,000 bpd, sharply higher than recent industry estimates of around 600,000 bpd.

Militancy in the delta is fuelled by a widespread feeling that its people, the majority of whom live in poverty, are not getting their fair share of the huge wealth being extracted from their ancestral lands.

Lumumba Okugbawa, deputy secretary-general of Pengassan, said unless the security situation in the delta improved significantly, the warning strike would be followed by a total pull-out of workers from the volatile region.

“What we are saying is that government must separate genuine agitation from common criminality in the Niger Delta. So far it has not done that yet,” Okugbawa told Reuters.

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