Oil pro­ducer Nor­way starts wage talks to avert wide­spread strikes

Arab News - - BUSINESS -

OSLO: Nor­we­gian em­ploy­ers and la­bor unions em­barked on four weeks’ of wage talks on Mon­day to stave off wide­spread strikes that risk im­pact­ing out­put in western Eu­rope’s big­gest crude pro­ducer.

Un­like most years, in which wages are set on an in­dus­try-by-in­dus­try ba­sis to re­duce com­plex­ity, the 2018 round rolls a ma­jor­ity of pri­vate sec­tor firms into a sin­gle ne­go­ti­a­tion in a bid to re­solve a stand-off over pen­sion re­form. “We’ve un­der­stood that there is no real will among em­ploy­ers to com­pro­mise from the out­set,” la­bor union ne­go­tia­tor Asle Reime, who will rep­re­sent oil work­ers, told Reuters ahead of the talks.

“Pen­sion rights are im­por­tant to all work­ers re­gard­less of which in­dus­try they are in, that’s why I think there is more weight be­hind the de­mands this year and also more will­ing­ness to strike,” he added.

If ini­tial talks break down, a stateap­pointed me­di­a­tor will at­tempt to bro­ker a deal in the fi­nal days lead­ing up to an April 7 dead­line, af­ter which most work­ers are al­lowed to go on strike un­less an agree­ment is found.

A few days in ad­vance, unions must name the com­pa­nies that would be hit in a first wave of in­dus­trial ac­tion, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to pre­dict in ad­vance how ex­ten­sive an ini­tial walk-out could be.

While Nor­way’s pro­duc­tion of oil and nat­u­ral gas is un­likely to be tar­geted from the start since the con­tract for rig work­ers’ is valid un­til June, unions may still hit the sec­tor by shut­ting down yards and other sup­pli­ers.

Onshore pro­cess­ing and ex­port fa­cil­i­ties for nat­u­ral gas are also at risk of strike, unions said, while off­shore oil pro­duc­tion work­ers could be­come in­volved in any ex­tended strike.

Western Eu­rope’s largest pro­ducer of oil and gas pumps about two mil­lion bar­rels of crude, con­den­sate and nat­u­ral gas liq­uids (NGL) per day, while its out­put of nat­u­ral gas stands at around 320 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters per day.

Nor­way’s last ma­jor strike by oil work­ers took place in 2012 and lasted for 16 days be­fore the govern­ment in­ter­vened to force an end to the con­flict, cit­ing vi­tal na­tional in­ter­ests.

Top com­pa­nies that could be af­fected by the talks in­clude con­sumer-goods maker Orkla, fer­til­izer maker Yara, me­tals pro­ducer Hy­dro and oil ser­vices com­pa­nies Aker So­lu­tions and Kvaerner.

Also at risk are ma­jor oil firms in­clud­ing Sta­toil, Aker BP, Lundin Petroleum and Shell.

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