Union calls strike vote over 'weakened' Ecopetrol

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Colombian oil policy, every part of it, is geared toward a steady weakening of Ecopetrol, to the extreme of finishing it off, and is contrary to the interests of the country and makes it more dependent on what private oil companies do."

So reads a resolution from local oil workers union USO which has called for regional meetings with union leaders to be held this month and a national assembly of delegates to be held by end-November in the lead up to a strike vote against the NOC.

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USO points to a planned sale of Ecopetrol's petrochemical subsidiary Propilco and the offer of hydrocarbon production assets through the Ronda Campos 2016 process as well as the suspension of the project to overhaul the Barrancabermeja refinery.

The union also alleges that Ecopetrol has violated worker rights by impeding access to work sites, reaching a more beneficial collective agreement with non-unionized workers and imposing subjective evaluation methods.

USO claims that its pleas to the national government including President Juan Manuel Santos have fallen on deaf ears and that years of talks with Ecopetrol have been unsuccessful.

ECOPETROL RESPONSE

"In the current climate, all workers must ensure the productivity of the Ecopetrol group and overcome the difficult economic conditions stemming from the drop in international oil prices," Ecopetrol said.

ALSO READ Will Colombia hit 2016 exploration targets? and DATA SNAPSHOT: Colombia hydrocarbons on slippery slope

The NOC said that although it respects the exercise of union rights, any collective suspension of labor activity against Ecopetrol has no constitutional or legal base as the company provides an "essential public service" ratified by "jurisprudence and the labor ministry."

USO said oil worker strikes have been permitted since 2014 following a constitutional court ruling.

Ecopetrol added it "pays its workers well, provides them with health coverage that is much superior to that of other Colombians and pays almost all of the primary, secondary and higher education fees of children of all workers and direct retirees."

"The administration always has promoted dialogue with the unions and has been available to hear their concerns and proposals," said the company.

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Also from Colombia, Range Resources said it received a demand notice from hydrocarbons regulator ANH seeking payment of the full amount of the outstanding obligations due to ANH for some US$53mn related to the revocation of three exploration licenses.

The notice was addressed to the consortium that Range participates in with Optima Oil.

In a statement, Range said it "currently intends to present a writ before ANH prior to the 7 September 2016 deadline which will outline the company's objections and defence against the action by ANH. The other consortium partners will file similar actions."