BUENOS AIRES May 12 (Reuters) – Argentine oil refinery workers started a nationwide pay strike on Thursday, deepening labor unrest that has plagued the country’s energy industry in recent weeks and raising the prospect of fuel shortages.
The biggest refinery operators in Argentina are YPF (YPFD.BA), the local unit of Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Petrobras (PETR4.SA) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) under the brand name Esso.
“Due to the fact that we haven’t had any offer from the companies … we’ve started an indefinite strike in all the refineries where our members are represented,” the Federation of Oil, Gas and Biofuels Workers said in a statement.
Pedro Milla, the federation’s union secretary, told Reuters the strike had halted operations at refineries including Esso’s Campana plant, Refinor in northern Salta province, Oil Combustibles’ San Lorenzo refinery and YPF’s Lujan de Cuyo plant.
He said workers were blocking the plants.
Strikes are common at this time of the year in Argentina, Latin America’s No. 3 economy, but labor unrest has flared in recent years due to double-digit inflation that is stoking wage demands.
The refinery workers wanted a 36 percent pay rise and Milla said they called the strike because the union had rejected an offer of 24 percent to be paid in several installments.
The country’s refining capacity tops 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil.
In the southern province of Santa Cruz, which accounts for about 20 percent of crude output, teachers are on strike and have blocked local roads, paralyzing activity at oil fields for nearly two weeks.