Oslo intervenes to resolve Norway oil strike
Last-minute government action halts offshore workers' walkout that would have shut down nation's oil production sites.
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2012 11:18
Norwegian government intervened only minutes before the start of the lockout [AFP]

Norway's government has intervened in a labour strike and ordered a last-minute settlement to prevent a full closure of its oil industry.

Quick government action halted the offshore workers' strike on Tuesday just minutes ahead of a threatened lockout at the country's oil production sites, the labour ministry said.

"The strike is over," ministry spokesman Jan Richard Kjelstrup told the AFP.

Jan Hodneland, a negotiator for the Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF) employers' group, said the government made a "responsible choice".

"We are now relieved that we do not have to shut down the production on the Norwegian continental shelf, however, we were ready to initiate a lockout if the government did not intervene," he said.

The strike over pensions had kept crude prices on the boil with analysts expecting far quicker action by the government to stop the oil industry from locking out all offshore staff from their workplaces from 2200 GMT on Monday.

"I had to make this decision to protect Norway's vital interests. It wasn't an easy choice, but I had to do it," Hanne Bjurstroem, Norway's labour minister, told Reuters after meeting with the trade unions and the OLF.

"This could have had serious consequences for the trust in Norway as a credible supplier," she added. 

A full closure of output in Norway would have cut off more than two million barrels of oil, natural gas liquids and condensate per day.

Norway is the world's second-biggest gas exporter by pipeline, the world's No 8 oil exporter and Western Europe's largest oil and gas producer, with the majority of supplies going to Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

The oil and gas industry makes up about one-fifth of Norway's $417bn economy.

Leif Sande, leader of the largest labour union Industri Energi, representing more than half of 7,000 offshore workers, said workers would return to work immediately.

More than 700 North Sea oil workers, members of the unions Industri Energi and SAFE, launched their strike in June.

They wanted employers to reconsider a decision not to grant special benefits to those who wish to retire at the age of 62, three years before the legal retirement age in the field and five years before the country-wide age.

The pensions dispute will now go to binding arbitration.


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