General Guicaipuro Lameda president of Venezuela's oil company PDVSA called upon oil workers Tuesday to maintain a dialogue in order to stave off a nationwide 48-hour oil strike, Lameda said to reporters in Maracaibo
"We should maintain the possibility of a dialogue...talks and understanding, patience and prudence (is needed),"
"We need to find a collective solution somehow," Lameda added.
The Venezuelan government has scheduled a new round of talks Tuesday at 1400 local time (1800 GMT) in a last-ditch attempt to broker a deal and stave off a nationwide 48-hour oil strike, a Labor Ministry official Luis Starchevic said
"We've been making contact with General Lameda , who's very disposed to continue dialogue," Starchevic said.
Venezuela's largest oil workers' federation, Fedepetrol, called a 48-hour strike to begin Wednesday unless the government agrees to give workers a 15 percent pay rise.
However, some workers inwestern Venezuela have already gone out on strike Tuesday, protesting the delay from the Union negotiators.
Local news reports said truck drivers transporting gasoline in Zulia State already walked off their jobs, hampering gasoline distribution.
Lameda said from the Bajo Grande refinery in Zulia state that currently around 5 percent of the estimated 40,000 PdVSA workforce have walked off their jobs but that the situation is under control and no operations are being affected, reported a television station.
Venezuela is the world's third-largest oil producer and pumps around 3 million barrels per day of which 2.3 million of crude and refined products is exported.
Oil exports were never interrupted during last year's strike, but industry sources said that oil production was beginning to be seriously affected after 4 days of the strike and would have cause a serious disruption had the oil strike dragged on.
PDVSA has a contingency plan that guarantees supply of crude oil and refined products to its clients for up to seven days.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)