Gabon Government to reduce foreign oil staff

By Guyson Nanagayi – Libreville – (Reuters) – Gabon’s government has agreed to trade union demands to limit the number of foreign workers in its oil sector to 10% and to require all executive posts to be held by Gabonese, oil sector union ONEP said on Sunday.

The limit comes after Africa’s seventh largest crude oil producer, one of the few in sub-Saharan Africa to have launched a Eurobond.

Gabon produced about 250 000 barrels of oil per day in 2008, according to US Energy Information Administration data. Foreign investors include Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Tullow Oil Plc, Canadian Natural Resources and many others, main oil workers’ union demanded reduction of foreign workers   of which  many of them  are employed  illegally.

However, Engandji the spokesman of the National Organisation of Petroleum Employees said the government had agreed to toughen the conditions of such employment, with a 10 percent cap, give all executive positions in the sector to Gabonese within six months and remaining posts within two years.

Legislation to implement the limits will be finalised by the end of the year, said ONEP spokesperson Arnaud Engandji, adding oil firms in the central African state would have two years to adjust to the 10% limit and six months for what he called the “gabonisation” of all executive positions.

Engandji said an accord on the limits was signed on Friday by Oil Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale, Labour Minister Maxime Nozo Issondou and ONEP Secretary General Guy-Roger Aurat Reteno.

A recent report estimated that foreign workers held 1 893 of the total 8 590 staff in the sector, with Gabonese holding just 17% of executive posts.

Oil accounts for around half of Gabon’s $14.5bn-a-year economy, a dependence it is trying to reduce through an economic diversification programme.