Netherlands: shell pension strike to hit natural gas production

A strike at the Dutch operations of Royal Dutch Shell PLC over pensions will be broadened to include the company's natural gas production in the north of the Netherlands. Production facilities at Shell's NAM joint venture with Exxon Mobil Corp. will be partially shut down beginning Wednesday, the Federation of Christian Trade Unions said.

Workers began a phased shutdown Monday of Europe's largest oil refinery, the Pernis facility in Rotterdam, in a dispute over plans to increase the retirement age to 65 from 60. A strike is also under way at Shell operations in Moerdijk.

Union officials hope to broaden the strike to all 10,800 Shell employees at the three sites, said spokeswoman Nancy Abelskamp, noting that Shell was cutting pension costs at the same time it reported a net profit of Ђ18 billion (US$21.7 billion) last year.

But she said the unions plan to stop operations in a way that will not affect utility companies or household consumers. "We don't plan to leave our customers out in the cold," she said.

The NAM venture is the country's largest natural gas producer, supplying roughly 80 billion cubic meters (about 104 billion cubic yards) annually. It meets 75 percent of the country's demand, mostly for domestic cooking and heating and electricity plants.

The strike began Monday at the Pernis refinery, which processes 412,000 barrels of crude oil per day, and at a petrochemical complex at Moerdijk that converts oil products into chemical products at the rate of 10,000 tons per day. A.M.

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