news blog from Britt

UPDATE 1-Field workers at Waha Oil back on strike in Libya


* Worker representative - restart possible soon at Dahra, SamahBy Jessica DonatiTRIPOLI, Oct 18 (Reuters) - A strike at Waha Oil, a U.S. joint venture in Libya, has resumed after an initial deal between the workforce and the head of the state oil company to remove the venture’s managers was overturned by the government, a workers’ representative said.The joint venture with American firms ConocoPhillips , Marathon and Amerada Hess produced around a quarter of Libya’s oil, equivalent to around 400,000 barrels per day, before the country’s civil war.Around 80 key Waha Oil workers are refusing to return to the venture’s fields until chairman Bashir Alashhab and other directors, whom they accuse of cooperating with ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, are removed.Late last week workers and sources at the state National Oil Corporation (NOC) said Alashhab and his deputy would be replaced.”The prime minister Mahmoud Jibril stopped the agreement because he said it was not the time for change,” Haithem Etarhouni, a representative for the striking workers, said on Tuesday.Waha Oil has suffered repeated disruptions during the conflict. Its oilfields were used as bases by Gaddafi’s fighters, bombed by NATO and then sabotaged by fleeing loyalist militia.But Etarhouni said that two fields, Dahra and Samah, had escaped the worst of the war damage and could be restarted relatively rapidly, potentially producing around 180,000 barrels per day (bpd) within weeks of the engineers returning..UNCERTAIN FUTUREThe future of the formerly all-powerful NOC is uncertain as it is prepares to resume full control of the oil sector.Deputy oil minister Omar Shakmak said last week the industry would be freed up allowing companies to be more autonomous. He also said he did not expect a governmental body to take over any of the responsibilities involving strategy and planning currently held by the NOC.But in an interview with Reuters last week, oil and finance minister Ali Tarhouni said it was too early to discuss the changes needed in the oil sector, which provides Libya with most of its wealth.The intervention by the prime minister over Waha Oil, overruling the NOC, appears to cast fresh doubts over the state corporation’s future authority.Waha Oil workers plan to protest against the prime minister’s decision on Wednesday. Etarhouni also said they had not received any pay since August.”We want to go back to bring money into our country, because we don’t have money now,” Etarhouni said.

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