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Norway Oil Strike Parties Are in Deadlock, Mediator Says

Striking Norwegian oil workers and their employers are still far from reaching an agreement to resolve a strike that threatens to halt all oil and gas from western Europe’s largest crude exporter, a mediator said.

The two sides are in “deadlock” and continue to be “far apart,” Carl Petter Martinsen, a mediator at the National Mediator’s Office, told reporters in Oslo today. “We’ve only just started so it’s too early to say things have changed.”

Norwegian Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrom had yesterday requested that unions and industry representatives meet again today at 5 p.m. local time. Martinsen said he expects talks to continue tonight and into tomorrow.

The minister’s intervention came after the industry association, which counts Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP Plc among its members, threatened to halt all output from midnight on July 9. The move is intended to force the government to end the dispute as it did in 1997, 2000 and 2004, Teodor Sveen Nilsen, an analyst at Swedbank AB in Oslo, has said.

“We can offer assistance to the partners in this deadlock situation,” Martinsen said. Bjurstrom said yesterday she hadn’t raised the issue of the government forcing arbitration when she met with labor and industry representatives.

The strike is disrupting as much as 250,000 barrels of oil output a day, according to Statoil ASA, Norway’s largest energy company.

The dispute over pensions, which began on June 24, is the first industrywide strike by energy workers since 2004 and the longest lasting, according to SAFE, one of three unions involved. The action has led to the loss of more than 2.58 million barrels of oil, costing the government and companies 2.25 billion kroner ($367 million), according to Jan Hodneland, chief negotiator of the Norwegian Oil Industry Association.

“We are working on the same questions as we did when mediation began in the end of June,” Martinsen said. “On these questions they are still far apart from each other, primarily on pensions.”

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