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Labor Relations News Updates January 2, 2014

Today’s Labor Updates:

Mercuria Sells Forties Crude; Nigeria Oil Unions Defer Strike

Settlement reached at Northern Tier Refinery in St. Paul Park

Nigeria 2013: Year of unending strikes, protests

Canada / Global In Solidarity  

Mercuria Sells Forties Crude; Nigeria Oil Unions Defer Strike

By Laura Hurst and Sherry Su – Dec 31, 2013

Mercuria Energy Trading SA sold North Sea Forties crude at the lowest level in almost two months. There were no bids or offers for Russian Urals blend on the Platts pricing window.

Nigeria’s two main oil unions deferred plans to start an indefinite national strike on Jan. 1 until they meet with government officials to discuss proposals to privatize the nation’s four state-owned refineries.


North Sea

Mercuria sold Forties cargo F0111 for Jan. 14 to Jan 16 loading at a discount of 25 cents a barrel to Dated Brent, according to a Bloomberg survey of traders and brokers monitoring the Platts window. That compares with the last trade at minus 20 cents on Dec. 24 between Vitol Group and Royal Dutch Shell Plc and a deal on Nov. 4 at minus 70 cents.

Mercuria withdrew two offers for Forties loading Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 and Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 at a premium of 15 cents to Dated Brent, the survey showed. Vitol didn’t manage to sell the grade at a discount of 15 cents.

There were no bids or offers for Brent, Ekofisk and Oseberg crudes.

Brent for February settlement traded at $110.84 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at the close of the window, compared with $111.04 in the previous session. The March contract was at $110.57, a discount of 27 cents to February.



PKN Orlen bought 100,000 metric tons of Urals crude for delivery to the Butinge terminal in Lithuania from Gunvor Group Ltd., according to two people with knowledge of the tender, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. The tender closed yesterday.

Libya’s Messla oil field is producing 25,000 barrels a day, state-run National Oil Corp. said in a note on its website citing Salah Al Manfi, a member of the operations, refining and maintenance committee at Arabian Gulf Oil Co., the operator of Messla and Sarir oil fields.

The north African country’s Messla and Sarir fields are producing a combined 38,000 barrels a day, Manfi said in a note on NOC’s website. The country resumed pumping at Messla yesterday. The field has a production capacity of about 100,000 barrels a day, while Sarir can pump about 220,000 barrels.


West Africa

The manager-level Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, with 15,000 members has scheduled talks with petroleum and labor ministry officials for Jan. 7, said its President Babatunde Ogun.

The blue-collar National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, or Nupeng, hasn’t set a date for discussions, though it will “engage” with government before deciding on strike action, Elijah Okougbo, secretary general for the union representing over 30,000 workers, said today by phone.

“If the government does not back down” Pengassan may call strike action which will start by halting the loading of crude cargoes and a gradual shutdown of oil and gas production, Ogun said by telephone today from Lagos, the commercial capital.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Hurst in London at; Sherry Su in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at

Settlement reached at Northern Tier Refinery in St. Paul Park

Article by: David Shaffer and James Walsh

Star Tribune staff writers

December 31, 2013 – 11:01 PM

Union and company negotiators reached a tentative agreement about 5 p.m. Tuesday, averting a strike that had been called to begin at midnight at the Northern Tier Refinery in St. Paul Park.

The deal, which must still be voted on by about 190 workers, came just in time, said Chris Riley, business agent for Teamsters Local 120. “We went to the edge of the cliff,” Riley said.

Union members voted overwhelmingly two weeks ago to authorize a strike when the labor contract expires. But, with the help of a federal mediator, the two sides reached a settlement.

Riley would not give details of the agreement, saying he wanted union members to see the proposal first. But he said leadership is recommending that the rank and file approve the deal. “It addresses safety issues, it addresses pay cuts,” he said of the tentative three-year contract.

The union, which represents refinery operators, maintenance workers and others, had said that management wanted to cut some workers’ pay, eliminate jobs and undermine seniority in a way that compromises safety. In 2006, the Teamsters struck the refinery for seven weeks, eventually reaching a settlement that included a 3.5 percent wage increase and a $1,500 ratification bonus. At the time, Marathon Oil Corp. owned the refinery, but it sold it and other assets in 2010 to two private equity funds.

They created Northern Tier Energy, a publicly traded master limited partnership based in Ridgefield, Conn. In November, the equity funds sold their interests to Western Refining, a publicly traded oil company based in El Paso, Texas. It now has a controlling stake in the Northern Tier Energy general partnership.

The company also has 163 company-operated and 74 franchise SuperAmerica stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin and owns a stake in a pipeline that delivers Canadian and North Dakota crude oil to Twin Cities refineries.

With recent upgrades, the St. Paul Park refinery can process 89,500 barrels of crude oil per day. It and Minnesota’s other, larger oil refinery, Flint Hills Resources in Rosemount, supply the bulk of the state’s motor fuel.


Nigeria 2013: Year of unending strikes, protests

by MESHACK IDEHEN on Dec 31, 2013

The activities of stakeholders responsible for the country’s smooth industrial relations, harmony and development was a recurring source of worry and concern in 2013, as incessant and crippling industrial actions by labour unions, coupled with low responses by government made 2013 a year of unending strikes, writes MESHACK IDEHEN.

Year 2013 has been defined by many labour and industrial relations practitioners as a year of brutal and unending industrial actions by the nation’s workers.

Others, including analysts and industry stakeholders in trying to quantify the cost of the strikes on the country’s economy posit it was about time labour unions were proscribed and government more meticulous in signing agreements with them.

To experts however, proscribing the labour union will not rescue the county from the clutches of frequent industrial action, since the governments at state and federal levels also carry a large chunk of the blame for Nigeria’s poor industrial relations record.

Workers’ Rights Activist, and President of Progressive Leaders Organisation International, (PLOI), Mr. Emmanuel Ezueme, told National Mirror that Nigeria is in the suffocating embrace of labour and industrial unions, and that the non-challant attitude of government will sooner than later, put the country on the brink of irreversible economic collapse.

Recounting that there were over 15 different strike actions by different unions in the outgoing year, he said the drawback the country was experiencing is largely tied to three main unions; those in the oil and gas industry, those in the power sector, and those in the education, medical and allied employments sector.

He maintained that the oil and gas sector workers which operate under the auspices of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) may be doing more disservice to the country than any good.

Ezueme said the recurring cases whereby oil and gas workers have perpetually held the nation and the petroleum sector in particular by the jugular, has led in part to the stillborn state of the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB),years after it was first presented to the National Assembly for passage into law.

According to him, “Calls for proscription of labour unions are not too misplaced, particularly when the suffering Nigerians are made to go through whenever the union’s strike is brought into consideration.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities strike that just ended is still fresh in peoples, mind”, Ezueme added. Indeed, it would be recalled that Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, affiliate; the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, only just recently called off a six months long strike, after the Federal Government agreed to meet some of the “hard conditions” they had reeled out.

Labour and industrial relations expert, Dr. Peter Okhiria, told our correspondent banning unions will not save the country from the grasps of recurring and toll taking industrial actions, but that it was time organised industrial unions change their approach when making demands of their employers, or negotiating with the government.

Citing instances of what he said is the never ending calls for strikes by those in the medical profession, Okhiria said the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, which regularly directs health workers in federal hospitals to commence indefinite strike throughout Nigeria must tread cautiously in the coming years, if it is not to completely lose out in the goodwill of Nigerians.

As for the medical doctors under the umbrella of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Okhiria said it behooves on them to prevail on health workers to consider other options before embarking on strike, instead of being the one calling for the strikes themselves.

National Mirror recalls that health workers in 2013 went on strikes a number of over demands that includes the nonskipping of salary Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) 10, implementation of National Health Bill, consultancy and specialist allowances and call/ shift duty and other professional allowances, amongst other demands experts said can easily be addressed.

Berating ASUU over it long strike this year, author and management expert, Mr. Kunle Rotimi, told our correspondent the union should be the first industrial union to be proscribed, if ever the Federal Government decided to go ahead with its plans to create an alternative national labour center.

Rotimi said it was obvious that ASUU had other ulterior motives, apart from the quest to get adequate funding for education, even if the government was not too proactive in its dealings and negotiations with the union, saying the union has since lost the confidence and trust of most Nigerians, particularly parents.

Also calling for a more restrained approach on the part of the unions, Rotimi said it was the obstinate attitude of unions in the power sector that dragged the reforms of the power sector for many years.

According to him, both the National Union of Electricity Employees, NUEE, and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Corporations, SSAEAC, contributed in no small measure to the epileptic power delivery in the country till date.

However, SSAEAC President, Mr. Bede Opara, refuted allegations that the union prolonged the reforms for several years, saying the interest and welfare of workers must be taken care of, before the reforms and privitisation were completed.

Be that as it may, it is on record, said Human Resource Development Consultant, Mr. Tope Awosegba, that electricity workers union have proceeded or threatened to proceed on strike more than 10 times in this year alone.

According to Awosegba, the latest threat for a nationwide blackout by electricity workers was in November when the unions threatened to stop the supply of electricity across the country if the Federal Government goes ahead to handover the assets of the company to private investors today without the conclusion of payment of workers entitlements

“Such incessant threats and capacity to destroy”, Awosegba said, “is what has demonised the unions in the eyes of the Nigeria public, where calls for government to put them in their place are now regularly mounting”.

Taken together, and despite the controversial approach to issues before labour unions, there are insinuations that its core mandates of ensuring workers are protested have not been met, what with the massive sacks and unfair disengagements many workers have had to grapple with.

In the banking sector for instance, observers said the Association of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSIBIFI) has not been able to protect workers from mass sack and unfair wages.

The same situation, according to them, is also obtainable in the construction sector, where hundreds of thousands of indigenous workers have lost their jobs to foreign immigrant workers.

President of ASSIBIFI, Mr. Sunday Salako, told National Mirror, that unions have done well for Nigerian workers, pointing out that it was the effort of labour and industrial unions that is still keeping many workers in the workplace.

According to Salako, whatever perception the public has about the unions based on its activities in the outgoing year may not be correct, since any action taken by labour union is for the overall wellbeing of both the country and its workers.


Canada / Global In Solidarity  

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