Protest blocks access to key Colombia oil field

BOGOTA, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Protesters are blocking access
to a major oil field in eastern Colombia operated by Canada’s
Pacific Rubiales to demand the company employs more people from
neighboring areas, a trade union leader said on Friday.

Protests against oil and mining companies are fairly common
in Latin America’s No. 4 oil producer, with local communities
seeking jobs or compensation for damages, and workers
complaining about working conditions and pay.

“What’s happening today in Puerto Gaitan … is that we’ve
got a problem in relation to local work force,” local trade
union leader Henry Jara told reporters, after confirming that
protesters were blocking access to the field.

Rubiales is the largest producing field in Colombia with
output around 175,000 barrels per day (bpd). Pacific Rubiales
(PRE.TO) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jara said that rather than employing people from Puerto
Gaitan or other towns in the Meta region, oil companies are
sacking workers that decide to join trade unions.

However, industry sources said most locals lack the
necessary qualifications to work in the oil industry.

It was not clear whether the blockade was disrupting the
transport of crude oil from the field. In mid-July, Colombian
oil contractors protested Rubiales forcing the company to
briefly halt operations.

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