Houston Chronicle: Nigerian oil workers strike against Shell: “Traders said Shell had already activated a contingency plan to man terminals with skeleton staff.” (ShellNews.net)
Reuters News Service
Oct. 7, 2004
LAGOS - Nigerian oil unions began an unexpected two-day strike at Royal Dutch Shell Group facilities to protest against feared job cuts in the world's seventh largest oil exporter.
Shell, which pumps about a million barrels a day of Nigeria's 2.3 million bpd output, said output and exports had not been affected, but independent port inspectors SGS said in a note to clients that the strike meant new loadings would be put "on hold."
"The unions PENGASSAN and NUPENG have commenced a two-day industrial action. Efforts are being made to minimise the impact of this on the company's operations," a Shell spokesman said.
"We are still loading normally and our terminals are not shut."
The action started on Thursday morning at all Shell installations, including the export terminals at Bonny, Forcados and the offshore EA field.
Traders said Shell had already activated a contingency plan to man terminals with skeleton staff.
The surprise two-day strike is unrelated to a general strike due to begin on Monday organised by Nigeria's umbrella union groups, which include blue-collar NUPENG and white collar PENGASSAN, over rising fuel prices.
Port inspectors SGS said that "after vessels presently loading at the terminals, other loading will be put on hold... This act will surely affect all other loading at the terminals."
A Shell source said the company did not expect the two-day action to have any impact on exports, and did not foresee any need to issue a force majeure, a legal document which indemnifies the company from failing to deliver on contracted sales due to events outside its control.
Unions said they were not trying to stop exports with the warning strike, but that the action could get more serious if management failed to respond to their demands.
"The plan is not to shut oil exports but if oil workers are not working and the stations are not manned, there could be some effect," said Peter Akpatason, president of NUPENG.
Nigerian media have reported that Shell's restructuring plan would cut 1,000 jobs, or 20 percent of its Nigerian workforce. It aims to reduce costs to $1.50 per barrel.
"The message to management is that there could be a more serious strike unless it changes its lackadaisical attitude to the issue of restructuring and contract workers," said PENGASSAN deputy general secretary Lumumba Okugba.