Monday, June 7, 2010

Workers At BP Colombian Operations Strike Over Salaries

BOGOTA (Dow Jones)--Workers at BP PLC (BP) operations in Colombia are striking and blocking the entrance of a natural-gas processing plant at the Cusiana field, located in the eastern Casanare province, union and company official said Friday.

The striking workers from BP's contractors are building a plant to process natural gas and allow an increase of output to 300 million cubic feet a day in Cusiana, up from the current 230 million cubic feet a day, said Daniel Rico, a member of the union's negotiating team, and Polly Martinez, a spokeswoman from BP.

Rico said all 400 workers are on strike. Martinez said only a group of 35 workers are actually striking while the others are forced out of work by the blockade that started on May 21.

Workers are demanding higher wages, though the salaries are reasonable, according to BP. Rico said salaries are as low as 515,000 Colombian pesos ($262) a month, while Martinez said nobody earns less than COP1.1 million a month.

The workers are also blocking access to producing facilities, but output has continued normally.

During the two weeks, there have been several clashes between the workers and the police but with no injuries.

BP operates the gas field in partnership with Colombian state-controlled oil company Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETROL.BO) and French oil company Total SA (TOT). BP owns 31% of the field, while Ecopetrol owns 50% and Total owns the remaining 19%.

The gas-processing plant will cost about $200 million, Martinez said, and it is entirely financed by Ecopetrol, though BP will be operating it and using it to ship its gas to the country's pipeline network for domestic consumption.

The project was scheduled to be finished by October or November, Martinez said, but it will probably be at least one month late.

BP also produces about 67,000 barrels a day from the Cusiana field.

-By Inti Landauro, Dow Jones Newswires; 57-1-694 00 76,

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