By Nigel Ash.
Tripoli, 15 May 2013:
For the fourth time since November, protestors have forced the closure of the Zueitina oil terminal, . . .[restrict]in an enduring dispute over jobs for locals.
The shutdown is affecting fully 20 percent of Libya’s oil exports. The terminal, 130 kilometres to the south of Benghazi, has a loading volume of some 214,000 bpd through five offshore crude loading berths.
Deputy oil minister Omar Shakmak said today that the protestors were demanding that the NOC honour a promise to hire 340 more people, reported Associated Press.
The simmering discontent first surfaced last November when there was a sit-in to press the demand that the terminal’s owner Zueitina Oil relocate its regional headquarters to the neighbouring town of Ajdabiya rather than Benghazi as was proposed. After a visit by GNC President Mohamed Magarief with two local congressmen and company officials, the decision of the Tripoli-based firm to open the Benghazi office was dropped. The workers ended their sit-in and the terminal resumed operations.
However just over a month later there was a further protest with staff and outsiders occupying the terminal in a demand for greater job opportunities at the oil facility. Zueitina is the main employer in the region and according to one oil analyst, who visited the plant last year, is already over-staffed.
This year-end outbreak of worker unrest at the terminal coincided with strikes and occupations elsewhere in the oil and gas sector, including the shut down of the Sharara oil field near Obari by local Tebu tribesmen, who were also complaining at the lack of job prospects. The disruption brought a stinging rebuke from the government, where a spokesman deplored any attempt to “disrupt the work of the government and state institutions in an irresponsible way” and condemned the huge financial losses, which Prime Minister Ali Zeidan later put at $350 million.
December’s protest ended after further assurances were given on expanding job opportunities. However by this March, there was a further disruptive action, this time outside the main gates of the terminal, in which the work issue was again raised. It was never confirmed what further assurances were provided to persuade the protestors to end their blockade of the terminal.
It would appear that they too have yet to be honoured, thus prompting this latest round of worker unrest. [/restrict]