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GNA orders payment of all PFG wages

Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) said last week that it had ordered the payment of all overdue wages to members of the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG). According to Argus Media, the order took the form of a decree from GNA’s Ministry of Defence.

In theory, this move should help end the strike that PFG members at the Es Sider, Marsa el-Hariga and Ras Lanuf oil terminals launched on January 24, citing Tripoli’s failure to pay most of the salaries they were due for work in 2020. The strike disrupted a number of tanker loadings, but most guards at Ras Lanuf and Es Sider backed down earlier this month.

They did so after extensive discussions with GNA’s Finance Ministry, Argus Media noted. Those discussions ended with the ministry promising to pay November and December wages by the end of March and agreeing to revise the terms of employment for some PFG contractors.

Most of the guards from Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were willing to accept these terms. However, PFG’s Marsa el-Hariga contingent held out for a longer time, announcing only on February 10 that they were ready to lift the blockade because they had been paid. GNA confirmed PFG’s statement on February 11, saying that the Defence Ministry’s decree called for all overdue wages to be paid.

These developments should pave the way for the re-opening of the Marsa el-Hariga terminal, which handles crude produced by Arabian Gulf Oil Co. (AGOCO), a subsidiary of National Oil Corp. (NOC). The strike had led AGOCO to reduce oil production from about 320,000 barrels per day to around 120,000 bpd. In turn, this cut brought Libya’s total oil output down from around 1.25mn bpd to a little more than 1mn bpd.

However, there may be more disruptions in the near term. According to Bloomberg, PFG members in Es Sider and Ras Lanuf said last week that they were ready to initiate another blockade if they were not paid by March 19.

The PFG is a force created some years ago to protect Libya’s oil infrastructure. It is, in theory, politically neutral and therefore not bound to any of the factions that have been battling for control of the country since the ouster of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. In practice, though, some of its contingents have sided with GNA or other groups. Last year, for example, some PFG members helped Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), GNA’s main rival, blockade oil terminals and other infrastructure.

GNA and LNA signed a temporary ceasefire agreement last September and made the arrangement permanent in October. Since then, the parties have named a prime minister and have selected the members of a three-man presidential body. These officials will lead Libya’s interim government in the run-up to national elections that are supposed to take place in December of this year.