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Nigerian Oil Workers Return to Work Amid Exxon Talks

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Bloomberg: Nigerian Oil Workers Return to Work Amid Exxon Talks (Update2)

By Julie Ziegler

April 30 (Bloomberg) — A Nigerian oil workers’ union is sending members back to work today as part of a bargaining agreement as talks with management at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s local unit were scheduled to resume.

Union and company representatives will meet at 10 a.m. local time today in Abuja in an attempt to end a seven-day strike that has cut crude output by 860,000 barrels a day, according to Olusola George-Olumoroti, branch chairman of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria.

“As we get to the table and see that management is negotiating positively,” workers will be called back to their jobs, George-Olumoroti said. Workers could be ordered back to work shortly after 10 a.m., he said.

Exxon management and the union leaders are being sent back to the negotiating table by the head of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., or NNPC, after talks broke down yesterday. George-Olumoroti said Exxon had refused to negotiate unless the union called off the strike. The union then refused to return to talks unless the company was present.

Gloria Essien-Danner, a spokeswoman for Exxon, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Levi Ajuonuma, a spokesman NNPC, said the strike cost the country billions of dollars in lost revenue. He said both sides agreed to “good faith” negotiations.

`Back to Work’

“The workers are going to go back to work,” he said. “Exxon also knows the nation will hold them accountable for any attitude less than agreed to.”

The strike, combined with a one-week spree of militant attacks against four crude pipelines operated by a Royal Dutch Shell Plc venture, has cut Nigerian oil output by about 50 percent, allowing Angola to overtake it as Africa’s biggest oil producer. The disruption helped crude oil futures prices reach a record $119.93 a barrel on April 28 in New York.

In March, Nigeria pumped 1.96 million barrels of crude a day, and Angola 1.93 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg estimates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Ziegler in Lagos at [email protected]

Last Updated: April 30, 2008 05:25 EDT

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