Nigeria to mediate in dispute between Exxon and labour unions

Protest over 150 workers losing jobs

ABUJA (Reuters) — Nigeria's government wants to resolve a labour dispute between Exxon Mobil and unions in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, a minister said on Wednesday.

Unions have protested against the firing of workers at Exxon and other foreign oil firms, staging several strikes since the start of the year.

"We have reached out to the management to internally resolve the matter through reconciliation," labour minister Chris Ngige told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

"If that fails government will fully take over because even my counterpart the minister of petroleum had intervened but it failed," he added.

On Saturday a Nigerian labour union that had called for the shutdown of all Exxon Mobil in the Niger Delta said it had suspended a strike.

"I have referred the matter to the industrial arbitration panel for reconciliation. If this fails we will take another action," Ngige said, without elaborating.

He said he had convened a meeting at which only Exxon's representatives and not those of the PENGASSAN labour union had attended.

The latest industrial action was in protest at the layoff of 150 workers in December, of which 82 were PENGASSAN members.

Strikes by Exxon workers in Nigeria at the end of last year disrupted output, delaying loadings by weeks.

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