Argentine strike continues, threatens fuel supply

* Strike in Santa Cruz halts oil production in key area

* Union disobeyed government conciliation order

BUENOS AIRES, April 11 (Reuters) – A twelve-day-old strike in Santa
Cruz province, which supplies almost 20 percent of Argentina’s crude, could
disrupt fuel supply if the work stoppage continues, a gas station
association said on Monday.

Last weekend, most provincial energy workers at the country’s leading
oil companies rejected a deal reached by their union leadership for a
roughly 25 percent pay increase, in line with privately estimated
inflation, and have since continued to press for better benefits.

“If the strike continues for a few more days … there’s a real risk
that people will run out of fuel,” said Rosario Sica, head of the gas
station owners’ association. “We don’t have any stocks (at the service
stations).”

The Argentine government on Friday ordered compulsory conciliation,
which would entail a return to work while talks continue, but the
provincial energy workers’ union refused and extended the strike.

“Our strike is still on and production has ceased completely — we’re
waiting for an outcome (to the talks),” said Ruben Retamoso, deputy
secretary of the provincial oil and gas workers’ union. “We’re calm: we’ve
been on strike for up to 36 days before to press our demands.”

The work stoppage is raising concern about gasoline supply as Easter
approaches, one of busiest times of the year for road travel in Argentina.

The labor dispute has affected production in northern Santa Cruz at
Repsol’s YPF (REP.MC: Quote, Profile, Research), Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Pan American
Energy, and caused the government to briefly limit natural gas supplies to
industry a week ago.

A source in the energy industry, who asked to remain anonymous, told
Reuters last week that YPF’s halted oil output amounted to 11,000 cubic
meters per day, while Oxy was losing 6,000 cubic meters and Pan American
had stopped producing 1,400 cubic meters per day.

Last week the companies would not comment and officials were not
immediately available on Monday.
(Reporting by Karina Grazina and James Matthews;
Editing by John Picinich)

Argentine strike continues, threatens fuel supply