Long queues formed at petrol stations in the Gabonese capital Libreville on Wednesday as residents stocked up on fuel before a planned strike by the central African country’s main oil industry trade union, a Reuters witness said.
The ONEP union had called for an open-ended strike in the sector from Tuesday midnight after government talks on labour regulations collapsed, but said it has given consumers more time to buy fuel supplies.
“The people asked for a reprieve, and we have given them that, but afterwards the strike will begin,” ONEP Secretary-General Guy Roger Aurat Reteno said.
Gabon is Africa’s seventh-largest oil producer, with output of some 250 000 barrels of crude oil per day. Foreign investors include France’s Total and Canada’s Canadian Natural Resources.
“It’s not a good time for a strike in the petrol sector. The government has to gear itself up to solve this problem quickly,” an employee at Total Marketing said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government of President Ali Bongo, who succeeded his late father in a disputed election last August, has made lessening the country’s economic dependence on oil exports a policy priority as output declines.
ONEP said earlier this week it had broken off discussions with the government in a dispute over labour regulations, notably a requirement to provide minimum service in the sector a rule unionists says breaches a basic employee right to strike.
“If we have to suffer for some time so that (social) problems are fully resolved, then we are ready to endure the consequences of this strike,” said one Libreville resident.