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mardi 20 décembre 2011

Workers At Key Algerian Gas Hub Say Start Fast Over Pay

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Workers at a key Algerian natural gas hub Tuesday said they were starting a hunger strike over pay conditions, as lingering tensions resurface in the country's most strategic sector.

Though the protest isn't stopping any flows from Europe's third-largest gas supplier, it comes amid unrest in other producing nations as oil workers complain they aren't benefitting from buoyant crude prices.

"We have decreed an unlimited hunger strike until they satisfy our demands. It is starting today," said Ali Arhab, a technician at Algeria 's state oil giant Sonatrach. A Sonatrach spokesman couldn't be reached.

A previous conflict at Sonatrach's Hassi R'Mel, which is processing gas destined for Europe , appeared to have been resolved in March.

But workers now say their demands, which include a bonus for working in the Sahara 's harsh conditions, have not been met, said Sonatrach trade unionist Messaoud Derouiche.

Though they don't intend to interrupt gas flows, the workers said the hunger strike would likely lead many workers to leave their positions unmanned. "After 48 hours, it can escalate [with a transfer] to the health care center," Arhab said.

Employees in the oil and gas industry, which accounts for most of Algeria 's export revenue, often complain they received lower pay increases than their peers in other sectors despite two years of high oil prices.

The resurgent labor unrest comes despite extensive engagement between workers and the authorities since energy minister Youcef Yousfi took the helm last year. Oil workers' "demands are legitimate regarding pay rises," he said in an interview earlier this year.

The Algerian protests come amid unrest in other key oil sectors elsewhere.

In the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan , President Nursultan Nazarbayev is scrambling to respond to unprecedented riots in which at least 15 people were killed and oil workers are on strike in a key oil town.

-By Benoit Faucon, Dow Jones NewswiresleBloggers

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