UPDATE 2-Nigerian oil union PENGASSAN threatens nationwide strike

(Adds Ministry comment, background on production)

ABUJA/LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - One of Nigeria’s two main oil unions on Thursday threatened to launch a nationwide strike from Dec. 18 over what it said was a “mass sacking of workers that joined the union”.

If the government fails to force the management of domestic oil and gas companies and marginal field operators to recall laid-off union members, its workers will go on strike, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said.

PENGASSAN did not say how many workers were laid off and union officials did not respond to calls and messages.

Oil output from Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude exporter, has been volatile over the past two years due to militant attacks, pipeline theft and sabotage and industrial action.

Strikes by PENGASSAN workers in December last year at ExxonMobil facilities affected production and dented exports from the company’s fields, according to oil traders and Reuters oil export data.

Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said on Thursday that the government would engage with PENGASSAN to resolve the dispute “as soon as possible.” (Reporting by Camillus Eboh; additional reporting by Libby George in London; writing by Paul Carsten and Libby George; editing by Jason Neely and Adrian Croft)