Norway government calls talks to end oil strike

Norway's government on Friday called talks between employers and striking unions after the energy industry ordered a lockout next week that threatens to halt output in Western Europe's top oil exporter.

Norway government calls talks to end oil strike
Photo: Marit Hommedal/Scanpix (File)

The lockout was announced almost two weeks into the strike by more than 700 North Sea oil workers over pensions which, according to employers' group OLF, has led to losses worth tens of millions of euros a day.

The labour ministry convened a meeting for the parties to the dispute at 6.00pm (1600 GMT) on Friday, the government said in an online statement.

State-owned energy company Statoil has said the lockout will start Monday at 2200 GMT and "will halt all production" on Norway's continental shelf, where about 50 companies operate, including BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

The lockout will mean 6,515 workers covered by offshore pay agreements will not be permitted to enter their workplaces as of Tuesday, OLF said.

Statoil said it expected a shortfall in production of around 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, costing 520 million kroner (€69.3 million) per day.

The unions Industri Energi and SAFE launched the strike on June 24th.

The dispute centres on employers cutting a pension add-on introduced in 1998 for workers who retire at 62, three years ahead of the general age for oil workers and five years ahead of Norway's official retirement age.

The unions have branded the lockout "cowardly" and insisted their demands are legitimate.

At the Friday meeting, the parties will be invited to return to the negotiating table, SAFE chief Hilde Marit Rysset was quoted as telling the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Norway is the world's eighth largest oil exporter and second largest gas exporter. In 2004, the last strike of oil workers in Norway lasted one week.

Despite Norway's troubles, oil prices slid Friday, with Brent North Sea crude diving below $100 as global economic worries were rekindled following interest rate cuts by central banks in Europe and China, analysts said.

Brent crude for delivery in August dropped $1.56 to $99.14 a barrel in London. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August lost $1.45 to stand at $85.77 a barrel.

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NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration

Two NGOs and six young climate activists have decided to take Norway to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to demand the cancellation of oil permits in the Arctic, Greenpeace announced on Tuesday.

NGOs take Norway to European Court over Arctic oil exploration
Northern Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

It’s the latest turn in a legal tussle between environmental organisations Greenpeace and Young Friends of the Earth Norway on one side and the Norwegian state on the other.

The organisations are demanding the government cancel 10 oil exploration licenses in the Barents Sea awarded in 2016, arguing it was unconstitutional.

Referring to the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the organisations claim that the oil licenses violated article 112 of Norway’s constitution, guaranteeing everyone the right to a healthy environment.”

The six activists, alongside Greenpeace Nordic and Young Friends of the Earth Norway, hope that the European Court of Human Rights will hear their case and find that Norway’s oil expansion is in breach of human rights,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

In December, Norway’s Supreme Court rejected the claim brought by the organisations, their third successive legal defeat.

READ MORE: Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings 

While most of the judges on the court agreed that article 112 could be invoked if the state failed to meet its climate and environmental obligations– they did not think it was applicable in this case.

The court also held that the granting of oil permits was not contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in part because they did not represent “a real and immediate risk” to life and physical integrity.

“The young activists and the environmental organisations argue that this judgment was flawed, as it discounted the significance of their environmental constitutional rights and did not take into account an accurate assessment of the consequences of climate change for the coming generations,” Greenpeace said.

On Friday, the Norwegian government unveiled a white paper on the country’s energy future, which still includes oil exploration despite a warning from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Norwegian case is an example of a global trend in which climate activists are increasingly turning to courts to pursue their agenda.