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Shell Ethiopia Employees Demonstrate

Published On  July 27,  2008

Shell Ethiopia Employees Demonstrate

Cite Violation of Basic Human Rights

Employees of Shell Ethiopia demonstrated at the gate of their head office on July 23, 2008, expressing disappointment with the decision by Shell to sell its interests in Ethiopia to OilLibya. They have threatened to strike, demanding  much better treatment from the oil franchise. 

“We have neither been engaged in, nor been given the choice to make a decision, rather the company has transferred us to Oilibiya like properties,” a press release issued by the labour union stated. “This violates basic human rights, and is not acceptable to the employees.” 

The giant downstream provider in Ethiopia sold 100pc of its shares on July 10, 2008, to a Libya based oil company named OiLibya, a subsidiary company of the Libyan Oil Holding Limited. 

The sale is consistent with shell’s global strategy to involve itself more in searching crude oil or according to terms of the sector it needs to involve more in the upstream business, rather than in the retailing of oil products. 

But employees who felt that they had been discriminated against by Shell as compared to their counterparts in Sudan have expressed their grief at this.  

What has disappointed the employees is Shell’s alleged attempt to try to pull out of the country as quickly as possible, without addressing their issues. 

The giant company also exited from eight other African countries, except Nigeria and Benin. The manner in which it transferred its employees during similar exits from the other African countries is one of the contentious issues that pushed its Ethiopian employees to demonstrate, according to the labor union. 

Senior management of the company were not willing to comment on the issue. 

This is not the first time the company has been involved in a conflict with its employees. The two had a disagreement which took them to court a couple of months ago, in connection with the amendment of a retirement policy. According to the Labor Union, the revision was made without the consent of the employees and the litigation is still pending. 

Shell, which launched operations in Ethiopia in 1929 boosted its market share by acquiring the properties and business of AGIP. It had 200 retail stations all over Ethiopia as of 2000. 

However, it sold off some of its properties gradually before ending  with the total transfer of its shares to OilLibya . It sold its Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) business in 2004 to Ghion Industrial Group. A year ago, it sold the depot it procured from Agip-located around Gotera, as well as its 63 fuelling stations, to the Kenyan franchise, Kobil Ethiopia Limited. 

The Ethiopian industry, which until 2003 was monopolized by Agip, Mobil and Total, seems to be losing its long time oil companies. Following Agip, Mobil exited Ethiopia two years ago, selling its property to Total, and now the giant Shell has followed in their footsteps. Currently, the National Oil Company (NOC) established in 2004, Yetebaberut Beherawi Petroleum (YBP) established in 2005, and the very recent entrant, Kobil, are operating in the country. Nile Petroleum is also poised to join the market soon. 



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