BUENOS AIRES, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Unions representing thousands of striking Argentine oil workers called off a strike on Friday afternoon that they began the day before after a meeting with business leaders ended in a deal on greater safety measures and training for employees.
The workers launched the strike on Thursday after a fire in a storage tank caused an explosion at the New American Oil (NAO) refinery in the town of Plaza Huincul in western Neuquen province.
The blast left three dead and one injured. read more
Union leaders, representatives of oil companies, and local government officials signed a deal designed to improve "training programs and prepare active personnel and future workers on issues of on-the-job safety."
The deal also requires spending to ensure compliance with regulations, according to a copy of the deal released by one of the unions.
Prior to reaching the agreement, Marcelo Rucci, secretary general of the Private Oil and Gas Union of Rio Negro, Neuquen and La Pampa, the country's largest oil union, stressed that improvements in safety are a matter of life and death.
"This is a job, not a war to go and die in." he said, noting that 15 workers have died over the past five years due to work-related accidents.
"We can't continue to lose lives to satisfy unrealistic production targets," added Rucci, whose union represents some 25,000 workers, including some employed in the prized Vaca Muerta shale fields in Neuquen.
Argentina's government is investing in infrastructure projects it views as key to helping it boost domestic oil and gas output and over time lessen costly energy imports.
Vaca Muerta, home to the world's second-largest shale gas reserve and fourth-largest shale oil reserve, is expected to bring in $2 billion in revenue from oil exports this year, five times more than last year. read more
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.