CARACAS, June 13 (Reuters) - Venezuela's main oil workers union late on Sunday called off a nationwide strike planned for Monday after the government announced a last-minute pay offer for oil sector workers.
''There will be no strike,'' Carlos Ortega, head of Venezuela's largest oil union, told Reuters by telephone. ''We're pleased but not satisfied,'' he said after Energy and Mines Minister Ali Rodriguez said state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) would award workers a merit pay increase of between three and six percent.
The threat of an oil strike in the world's third largest oil exporter had contributed to a recent firming of prices despite the fact that PDVSA had said it could maintain its output at the current level of 2.7 million barrels per day for at least seven days if the walkout went ahead.
Unions announced the strike last week after PDVSA said it would not award a regular salary rise for merit this year due to budget constraints. Talks to resolve the dispute seemed to have broken down earlier on Sunday when PDVSA negotiators failed to show up for a planned meeting with union officials.
But after a late night meeting with President Hugo Chavez in Miraflores presidential palace, Rodriguez made the surprise announcement of a merit increase, albeit smaller than last year's average rise of eight percent.
''There's absolutely no reason for a strike in the Venezuelan oil sector where salaries are significantly higher than for other Venezuelan workers,'' Rodriguez said. He added that the decision to grant the merit rise had been taken by the government as the sole shareholder in PDVSA.