March 25, 2009

Oil workers postpone strike in Nigeria

Last-minute negotiations between Nigerian oil workers unions and government officials headed off a strike, at least temporarily, an official said Tuesday.

Bayo Olowoshile, secretary-general of the Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association, told the Voice of America the unions agreed to give the government more time to fulfill its pledge on improving security in the oil fields in the restive Niger Delta.

Yes, we will be willing to give the government a little time, Olowoshile said. But a time that will have to be definite and specific.

Negotiators for the association and the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers met for several hours Monday with government and security officials in Abuja, agreeing to set up committees to address the issue of violence and the unions' other demands. One committee, to be led by the inspector general of police, will work to free all kidnapped workers in the Niger Delta, VOA reported.

Militants have abducted more than 300 workers and destroyed numerous oil and gas pipelines and other facilities. The attacks have cut production by about 20 percent in Nigeria, the world's eighth biggest oil exporter and largest in Africa.