Nigerian oil workers launch strike : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:03/06/2000 08:09:00 ET FOCUS-Nigerian oil workers launch strike LAGOS, March 6 (Reuters) - Nigerian oil workers began an indefinite strike on Monday over the transfer of pollution monitoring from the Oil to the Environment Ministry and said the action would halt crude loadings. The powerful Pengassan white-collar union initiated the industrial action and officials of the blue-collar Nupeng union said their members had joined the stoppage.

Pengassan's president, Bada George, told Reuters: "We have instructed our members not to allow vessels to load crude oil from the terminals."

"The strike started this morning and is nationwide," George added, speaking from the commercial capital Lagos.

An official of Nupeng confirmed that the blue-collar union had joined in the strike but there was no immediate word of its impact from the oil-producing or loading areas.

Union officials said the strikers had cut communications links between Lagos and the main oil operations areas in the southeast of the country.

The workers are protesting a government decision to transfer the pollution monitoring unit in the Department of Petroleum Resources in the Oil Ministry to the Environment Ministry.

George told Reuters on Friday that the government had reneged on an earlier agreement not to proceed with the transfer of the department.

The monitors supervise oil loading at Nigeria's export terminals, but past strikes by them have not affected exports of almost two million barrels of crude per day. Support from the blue-collar union has added a more serious dimension to their latest action.

The director of the Department of Petroleum Resources, Winston Dublin-Green, told Reuters he had already started talks in Lagos with union officials.

He said he was surprised that the unions had gone ahead with the strike.

"They should have waited because their grouse was being looked into," he said.

Dublin-Green said he would be travelling to the inland capital Abuja to discuss the matter with President Olusegun Obasanjo's senior aides.

A two-man delegation from the petroleum sub-committee of the House of Representatives held talks earlier with George and said he had been summoned to go to Abuja.

Even without counting the actual impact of a halt in crude oil loadings, a strike in Nigeria's life-blood oil industry adds to a myriad of social and political crises buffeting Obasanjo's government.

In addition to unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta region since Obasanjo took office last year at the end of 15 years of military rule, parts of the country have been gripped by religious violence over the past two weeks.

-- Martin Thompson (, March 06, 2000

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