Workers at China firm's oil block in Niger start 48-hour strike

600 workers protesting pay, conditions, says union

NIAMEY (Reuters) — Around 600 workers at a China National Petroleum Corporation oil block in Niger began a 48-hour strike on Thursday to protest pay and conditions, the National Union of Petroleum Workers said.

The workers object to a big pay gap between expatriate and local workers at the site in Agadem, in the semi-arid eastern border region of Diffa, among other grievances, the union said in a statement read on local radio.

"We are asking the government to comply with the government regulations already in force in Niger," the statement said.

The impoverished and landlocked country began pumping around 20,000 barrels of crude per day at Agadem in 2011 to feed the SORAZ refinery in Zinder, 700 km east of the capital, Niamey.

The refinery is 60 per cent-owned by CNPC, and the government owns the remaining 40 per cent. Under the partnership, 7,000 bpd of SORAZ's output is destined for the domestic market, and the rest is earmarked for export.

A prolonged strike could affect production at SORAZ, said a senior official at the department of energy and petroleum, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

SORAZ refined 397,000 tonnes of crude oil in the first half of 2013, the company said in October, keeping it on track to meet a year-end production target.

Niger, which also has uranium deposits, in November awarded CNPC a second operating permit in the Agadem block and plans to export the oil via Chad and Cameroon.

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