Oil and gas union to strike in support of Massa fuel shortage ultimatum

The Private Oil Workers’ Union accused companies of ‘taking the country hostage’ through ‘speculation’

A worker walks near a pile of sand at Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas drilling, in the Patagonian province of Neuquen, Argentina January 21, 2019. Picture taken January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Argentine oil and gas trade unionists in the Neuquén basin have vowed to go on strike on Wednesday from 6 a.m. in support of Economy Minister Sergio Massa’s ultimatum to ban oil exports if the industry fails to redress supply shortages by Tuesday night.

Massa, who is also the ruling coalition’s presidential candidate, said on Sunday that oil companies would be forbidden from exporting oil from Wednesday onwards unless the fuel shortages that have hamstrung motorists across the country are resolved by Tuesday night.

“We unconditionally back the export ban announced by Massa for midnight on Tuesday,” the Private Oil Workers’ Union wrote in a statement posted to social media late Sunday.

“It makes no sense that [the industry] is constantly talking about record production and at the same time there’s no gas,” they wrote. “Electoral matters and corporate speculation cannot take an entire country hostage. In the Argentina of the future, there’s no space for opportunists and misers.”

At gas stations around Argentina, queues of vehicles have snaked out of the entrance as drivers whose tanks are running on empty wait to fill up. On Friday, Energy Secretary Flavia Royón reached an agreement with energy companies for Argentina to import 10 tanker ships of fuel to ease shortages. 

Royón, Massa, and the companies themselves have attributed the shortages to a spike in demand around the elections, greater activity in the agriculture and tourism sectors, and scheduled shutdowns at some refineries, as well as panic buying.

In an interview with the LN+ TV channel on Monday afternoon, Massa accused oil and gas companies of choosing to export their production because they could get better prices on the international market, adding that this was why he had threatened to ban exports. 

“When the producer has to choose whether to sell in the internal market or the external market and can get twice the value of the barrel in dollars, what they end up doing is choosing the external market, and undercutting supply.”


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