Schlumberger lets go of workers in Venezuela as it scales back
By Alexandra Ulmer and Mircely Guanipa
CARACAS/PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Oilfield services company Schlumberger has let go of workers and pulled out of projects as it cuts operations in crisis-stricken Venezuela, sparking worker protests and heightening worry over the OPEC country's slumping oil output.
Schlumberger in April said it would reduce activity in the South American OPEC nation, which accounted for less than 5 percent of the company's consolidated revenue last year, due to insufficient payments and no improvements on the horizon.
As a result, employees working on projects ranging from the oil-rich Maracaibo Lake to the Orinoco Belt are being laid off, workers and a union leader said, an ominous sign for Venezuela's slumping crude production and crumbling economy.
"They're getting rid of almost all the workers because they're reducing operations and the contracts won't be renovated because of debt owed by PDVSA," said a Schlumberger employee in Venezuela's eastern city of Maturin, asking to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak with media.
Houston-based Schlumberger declined to comment. Caracas-based PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment.
Ivan Freites, a union leader and fierce PDVSA critic, said some 600 workers are being fired in Zulia state, whose capital is Maracaibo, and 2,000 workers are being let go nationally.
While the exact number of laid-off workers was not immediately clear, the dismissals could further stoke social unrest as Venezuelans struggle to eat three meals a day amid worsening food shortages and triple-digit inflation.
Some Schlumberger workers protested the layoffs in Maracaibo on Wednesday. Continuación...