Oil workers rally for more support

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Norway’s Oil Museum in Stavanger was chosen as the site on Wednesday for a major politial demonstration mounted by nine labour organizations and their members, to rally more support for the oil industry. Oil & Energy Minister Tord Lien was expected to attend and face claims that he and the government aren’t doing enough to preserve oil industry jobs and competence.

The plaza adjacent to the Oil Museum in Stavanger was chosen as the site for a labour rally Wednesday evening, to drum up support for the oil industry. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

The plaza adjacent to the Oil Museum in Stavanger was chosen as the site for a labour rally Wednesday evening, to drum up support for the oil industry. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Lien was scheduled to fly in straight from a meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris, where oil and energy ministers from around the world were gathered and expressed sorrow over the weekend terrorist attacks. After observing a minute of silence, Lien spoke about the important role gas can play as a source of energy in the future.

Norway’s oil and gas workers, however, want Lien and the state to “do more” to help them preserve their jobs in an industry hit by the fall the oil prices. Even though their employers, the oil companies, have earned billions over the years, and the workers themselves have enjoyed solid earnings as well, their unions aren’t satisfied with the government’s response to the current industry downturn, and expect the state to offer more assistance.

“There’s no doubt  that the oil business will continue to be the most important in Norway for a long, long time,” Leif Sande, leader of the labour organization Industry Energi, told local newspaper Rogalands Avis (RA). “That’s what we want to make clear, and that makes it an important demonstration.” He claimed the Johan Sverdrup and Ekofisk oil fields will continue to generate industry activity for the next 40 to 50 years.

Turning to the state for help
Sande believes state authorities must do more to help the oil business get out of the dip it’s currently in, claiming it’s only temporary. It’s not enough, Sande claimed, “to only talk about a ‘shift’ (in the economy) and re-training, because what will when workers with special competence and oil-related education are needed in the industry again? Shall they be re-trained back again?” He wasn’t specific about what sort of measures he had in mind, but also called for more support for those who have lost their jobs already. ”

The rally and appeals by the trade union federations come at a time when the refugee crisis, terror fears and ongoing debate over the state budget have diverted attention in Norway away from the plunge in oil prices and resulting unemployment. The unions admitted their planned demonstration was intended to direct attention back on the “challenging situation” facing Norway’s oil industry.

The government, meanwhile, has been devoting lots attention to the economic downturn caused by the oil industry slowdown. The entire state budget is based on addressing the challenges of rising unemployment, not least in the oil sector, and Finance Minister Siv Jensen was criticied just last week for providing NOK 630 million worth of tax relief to the oil industry at a time of budget cuts in foreign aid, rain forest preservations and several other areas.

Jensen responded that that tax relief was temporary, and tied to attempts at harmonizing cuts in corporate tax. “We want to provide a basis for long-term predictability for oil-related businesses,” Jensen told newspaper Aftenposten. “It’s not as though (oil) is a sunset industry, even though many (not least environmental activists) hope it will be.”

More bad, some good news
The rally comes as yet another oil service firm, TGS-Nopec Geophysical Co, announced it would be laying off 130 of its 800 employees at what ranks as Norway’s largest seismic company. Company officials blamed the lack of oil company investment and poor market.

Some analysts think the oil price, which dipped into the low USD 40s this week, had hit bottom and may rise over the next year.  And Statoil, Norway’s biggest company, did have some news this week to cheer at least the environmental movement that wants to stop pumping oil. Statoil announced that it already had met its climate goals for 2020, with carbon emissions reduced by 800,000 tons four years ahead of time. Now Statoil is setting new “more ambitious” goals for energy efficiency.

Statoil also announced that it was pulling out of Alaska and taking a loss of NOK 650 million on its oil exploration projects in the most northern areas of the US. Statoil intended to give up its exploration licenses and close its office in Anchorage because “in today’s situation” it couldn’t defend ongoing development projects in the US Arctic.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • frenk

    Maybe the unions (and the government) should focus on reducing costs + increasing productivity….although…lets be honest…this is never going to happen….