Norway’s government intervenes to avoid oil industry closure

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Norway's government ordered on Monday (9 July) a last-minute settlement in a dispute between striking oil workers and employers, averting the shutdown of Western Europe's top oil producer.

"I had to make this decision to protect Norway's vital interests. It wasn't an easy choice, but I had to do it," Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm reportedly said, after a meeting with the trade unions and the Norwegian oil industry association (OLF).

The Norwegian government decided to stop the oil industry from locking out all offshore staff from their workplaces only minutes before the start of the lockout, citing potential economic consequences.

A full closure of output in Norway would have cut off more than 2 million barrels of oil, natural gas liquids (NGL) and condensate per day.

"This could have had serious consequences for the trust in Norway as a credible supplier," Bjurstrøm said.

Oil markets breathed a sigh of relief on news of the intervention and crude prices dropped in early Asian trade.

The Norwegian dispute focused on a demand for early retirement at 62 by offshore workers which has raised eyebrows in a country that already pays the world's highest oil and gas salaries. Offshore workers put in 16 weeks of work a year.

Norway, the world's third largest oil exporter, will would have lost 1.8 billion crowns per day, according to the Norwegian TV station NRK.

Under Norwegian law, the government can force the striking workers back to duty and has done so in the past to protect the industry on which much of the country's economy depends.

Leif Sande, leader of the largest labour union Industri Energi, representing more than half of 7,000 offshore workers, said the workers felt let down.

The Norwegian oil workers will return to work immediately according to Sande.

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