Oil strike should not occur again: Petroleum secretary

January 11th, 2009 - 7:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) The oil industry will do “introspection” to ensure that there is no recurrence of the strike that paralysed the economy this week, Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey said here Sunday. “We have to ensure that the trauma does not occur again. The oil industry will have to undertake introspection,” Pandey told reporters at the inauguration of the media centre for the country’s premier oil and gas conference, Petrotech 2009.

Nearly 45,000 employees of the public sector energy companies went on strike from Wednesday, demanding higher salaries. It lasted three days, with retail petrol vends closing down and fertilizer and power plants shutting shop due to lack of oil supplies.

The government took a tough stand, invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act in several places. The state-run oil upstream major ONGC suspended 64 employees and IndianOil took action against three.

Petroleum Secretary Pandey said their fate after the strike would be decided by the companies.

Asked if the management of the oil companies would be taken to task for reportedly giving covert support to the striking employees, Pandey said: “I am not aware of any such action”.

He added that most of the gas and petrol supplies would be “completely normal by (Sunday) night”.

All IndianOil refineries are back in action and in full capacity, except for the Gujarat refinery which has been deliberately kept at a lower capacity due to technical reasons.

ONGC chairman R.S. Sharma noted that the western offshore production has nearly gone back to normal. “In the morning, the production was at 310 million barrels, compared to the regular rate of 342 million barrels,” he said.

Describing the oil sector employees as “intransigent”, the top official in the petroleum and natural gas ministry said the government has already constituted a high-level committee, chaired by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, to look into the demands of the oil sector officials.

“If they have genuine grievances, then these will be redressed,” he said.

On the role of private players in the energy retail sector, Pandey said: “The government will seriously consider how to associate private players in the system. But what the decision will be, whether positive or negative, I cannot say.”

In the private sector, Essar Oil has already been operating over 1,000 outlets in the country, while Reliance has also indicated it wanted to re-enter the retail market.

Pandey added that public sector oil companies were still calculating the losses due to the strike.

The secretary did not reply when asked if there would be a revision of fuel prices, as indicated by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora in Mumbai Saturday. “Any clear discussion on the price will take place at the cabinet,” he said.

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