October 3, 2010 / 5:36 PM / 10 years ago

Gabon sets limits on foreign workers in oil sector

* Firms have six months to enact exec posts ruling

* Agreement averts strike threat

LIBREVILLE, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Gabon’s government has agreed to trade union demands to limit the number of foreign workers in its oil sector to 10 percent and to require all executive posts to be held by Gabonese, oil sector union ONEP said on Sunday.

Legislation to implement the limits will be finalised by the end of the year, said ONEP spokesman Arnaud Engandji, adding oil firms in the central African state would have two years to adjust to the 10 percent limit and six months for what he called the “gabonisation” of all executive positions.

Engandji said an accord on the limits was signed Friday by Oil Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale, Labour Minister Maxime Nozo Issondou and ONEP Secretary-General Guy-Roger Aurat Reteno.

The deal averts the risk of a strike in Africa’s seventh largest crude oil producer, one of the few in sub-Saharan Africa to have launched a Eurobond.

Gabon produced about 250,000 barrels of oil per day in 2008, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Foreign investors include Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Tullow Oil Plc, Canadian Natural Resources and many others.

A recent report estimated that foreign workers held 1,893 of the total 8,590 staff in the sector, with Gabonese holding just 17 percent of executive posts.

Oil accounts for around half of Gabon’s $14.5 billion-a-year economy, a dependence it is trying to reduce through an economic diversification programme. (Reporting by Phal Mezui Ndong Gualbert; writing by Mark John; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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