10 Jul 2012

Oil and gas workers ordered to end strike

12:46 pm on 10 July 2012

The government of Norway has used emergency powers to force offshore oil and gas workers to end a 16 day strike and go back to work.

Production was due to be shut down from midnight on Monday in in a dispute over pensions.

''I had to make this decision to protect Norway's vital interests,'' said Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstroem on Monday.

''It wasn't an easy choice, but I had to do it,'' she said.

The BBC reports the intervention means that the National Wages Board will facilitate enforced abritration to end the dispute. It is unclear how long this process will take.

The dispute is over a demand by offshore workers for the right to retire early, at 62, with a full pension.

Oil and gas workers are paid an average $US180,000 per year.

Norway provides 20% of Europe's gas needs.

About 50 companies operate on Norway's continental shelf.

Norway is the world's fifth largest oil exporter. Oil output has been cut by 13% and gas output by 4% since the strikes began on 24 June.

A complete shutdown would have taken about 1.6 million barrels of oil out of world markets each day.

The Norwegian Oil Industry Association estimates the strike has cost Norway 2.9 billion (£300 million) kroner in lost production.

Energy accounts for about half of Norway's total exports.

A lockout was previously averted by the government in 2004 also.

The last lockout in the offshore sector occurred in 1986, and lasted for three weeks before the government intervened.