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Norway oil pay talks fail again, shutdown looms
OSLO, July 8 |
OSLO, July 8 (Reuters) - Negotiations between Norway's offshore oil workers and employers over pay and pensions failed for a third time on Sunday, risking a total shutdown of oil and gas production from Tuesday, both sides involved in the talks said.
The OLF and labour unions said they still could not agree on an early retirement option for about 7,000 offshore workers, the main sticking point in the dispute.
"The strike goes on. This is a very serious situation," Jan Hodneland, OLF's chief negotiator, said after 13 hours of talks, which ended early on Sunday morning.
Analysts expect the government to intervene, a move striking workers - vital partners in 2013 elections - do not want. Norway is the second biggest gas supplier to Europe after Russia, with most gas going to Britain, Germany and France.
Trade unionists urged the Labour-led government not to intervene and let the oil industry "sweat for a few days".
"Compulsory arbitration in this strike would be a betrayal of the free bargaining rights," the statement said.
Oil workers went on strike on June 24 and the dispute escalated on Thursday after Norway's oil industry association, OLF, said it would lock out all offshore workers from July 10.
The strike has already cut Norway's oil production by about 13 percent and its gas output by about 4 percent, and affected crude shipments from the world's No. 8 oil exporter.
Norway's Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstroem on Friday summoned the parties to a meeting during which she asked them to resume mediated talks but refrained from forcing striking offshore oil and gas workers back to work.
The government has the authority to force an end to a strike if it believes safety is being compromised or vital national interests could be harmed.
Markets hope that the government will step in to prevent any major supply disruptions as the Conservative-led government did in 2004, just one day after the oil industry called a lockout.
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