PFG blockade oil exports: labour dispute or political obstruction?

By Sami Zaptia.

The PFG in Hariga port blockade oil exports calling for payment of delayed salaries (Photo: LANA east).

London, 25 January 2021:

The Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG), the state recognized security force tasked with protecting Libya’s oil installations, blockaded oil exports in the eastern oil port of Hariga.

There are unconfirmed reports of them blockading exports at the ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf. All these ports are in the Khalifa Hafter controlled eastern part of Libya.

The PFG claim that around 1,000 of them have not been paid since September 2019. They are also demanding health insurance.

Analysis

Suspicion of political motivation?

The industrial action is being watched very carefully by observers to see if it really is a genuine labour grievance of unpaid wages or a politically motivated move by the Hafter camp to obstruct political progress made by the UNSMIL-brokered Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

Bone fide labour dispute?

On the face of it, the labour despite is bone fide, but some are asking having waited without pay for 16 months why stop oil exports now?

Sceptics wonder if the PFG were politically activated at a time when the House of Representatives (HoR) and High State Council (HSC) are making positive progress in meetings in Hurghada, Egypt and Bouznika, Morocco on constitutional and sovereign positions, respectively.

The 5+5 Joint Military Commission has also been making progress on the ceasefire conditions, with the UN announcing that ceasefire monitors will be installed along the Sirte-Jufra ceasefire line.

The UNSMIL economic track has also made progress with the Central Bank of Libya board meeting for the first time in five years and the Libyan dinar exchange rate devalued and unified.

More important, UNSMIL announced on 21 January that LPDF nominations are opened for selecting Libya’s next temporary interim government to guide Libya to the 24 December 2021 elections.

Reminder by Hafter: I am still here!

Some analysts think this was a timely reminder by Hafter to the LPDF as they choose Libya’s next government to guide it to the 24 December elections that he is still around and still very much commands effective, and potentially deal destroying, coercive power on the ground in eastern Libya.

Time will tell if the PFG blockade is in anyway linked to progress on these political fronts? It will be recalled that one of the conditions of the ceasefire agreement was that the PFG be restructured. If their oil blockade is found to be politically motivated, it would hasten moves to reorganize and depoliticize them.

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