Norway Oil-Service Workers See Strike Risk in ‘Demanding’ Talks

Oil-service unions in Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, said wage negotiations may reach an impasse that could trigger a strike.

In the three-day talks starting today for about 6,000 workers at companies such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd., unions will seek higher increases than they sought in separate negotiations for offshore-platform workers that partially broke down last week, said the Industry Energy union, which represents about 90 percent of the oil-service workers.

“It’s always a little more demanding to obtain a bigger increase than others have gotten,” union leader Leif Sande said in a phone interview. Unlike a strike by platform workers, an oil-service action would probably have no direct impact on oil and gas production, he said.

Customers are reducing spending in the oil-service industry, which covers work from well maintenance to subsea equipment and platform design. Companies such as Statoil ASA, which operates more than 70 percent of the country’s oil and gas output, are focusing on higher returns after rising costs ate away at profits over the past decade.

Two of three unions for Norwegian offshore-platform workers, who are covered by a separate collective-bargaining agreement, last week broke off talks with employers, raising the risk of a new walkout two years after the country’s longest oil-worker strike. The 2012 action reduced Norway’s production until the government used its power to intervene as companies threatened a staff lockout that would have shut output entirely.

Industry Energy and Safe, another union, represent workers in both series of talks. Industry Energy reached a deal in last week’s talks, while Safe was one of the two groups that broke off negotiations. The platform-worker talks will now enter public mediation, where a failure to reach an agreement could lead to a strike.

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