Employees pressure big oil companies to end Russia

OAs governments decided whether or not to introduce sanctions against Russia and as oil companies chose to withdraw from their oil operations in the country, an unexpected and powerful new force was unfolding. Over the past week, there have been several acts of resistance around the world as oil workers refuse to welcome Russian oil supplies into their countries. Now, it looks like these widespread acts are starting to influence the decisions of governments and oil majors around the world.

While the United States has now banned imports of Russian oil and gas, European countries and several oil majors have continued to buy Russian crude with no obvious alternative to meet global demand. Many Major oil companies have withdrawn from projects in Russiaincluding BP, Exxon and Shell, and major companies in other sectors are also joining the boycott.

Shell has come under fire for buying Russian crude at a deep discount and has now apologized and withdrew to deal with Russian oil. The fact that this pressure has forced the oil giant to turn around underscores how sensitive these large state-owned companies are to both external and internal pressures.

The decision by European governments not to impose sanctions on oil and gas imports is driven by incredibly high energy prices and fears of oil and gas shortages. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was working with European powers to determine how to replace Russian energy in the future. Germany, for example, tried to accelerate its transition to renewable energies and built two new LNG terminals.

But many oil and supply chain workers refuse to sit idly by and wait for governments and energy companies to make the decision. Oil workers around the world have recently taken matters into their own hands by refusing to unload cargo or handle supplies of Russian oil.

In the UK, dockworkers have taken a stand by refusing to unload Russian oil and gas. Although the British government has banned Russian ships from docking in British ports, they can still supply power using foreign ships. But members of the British union Unite refuse to help unload these ships. Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham tweeted “I am very proud that @unitetheunion members are taking a principled stance to prevent Russian oil from entering our ports. But it is appalling that they have been put in this position by @GOVUK, who are still dragging their feet on sanctions.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, workers are also taking a stand and preparing for possible legal repercussions if the cargo is refused. A spokesperson for the Dutch union FNV Havens, Niek Stam, said: “There is blood on this oil, blood on this coal and blood on the gas… We are in the process of discovering how we can boycott without risking a huge amount of good in court.

Unions and workers in Australia, Canada and the United States have also joined efforts to stop the delivery of Russian oil and gas shipments. Other EU countries are now expected to follow the UK’s lead in banning Russian freighters from docking at their ports. And several shipping companies, including the world’s largest container carriers, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and AP Moller-Maersk A/S, have also refused to ship Russian goods. Although some container companies, especially from Asia, are still offering their services to Russiasuch as the Chinese Cosco Shipping Co.

The response of banks, unions, workers, shipping companies and oil companies has a clear impact on the supply of Russian oil to the rest of the world. Non-oil sanctions against Russia have made it increasingly difficult for oil companies to interact with Russian banks and other institutions, restricting oil and gas operations between foreign companies and Russia.

CNN reported that about 4.3 million bpd of Russian crude was already missing “from the market because Western buyers are refusing to buy it,” according to Natasha Kaneva, head of global commodities at JPMorgan. Furthermore, “it is increasingly clear that Russia [oil] volumes are ostracized” and “we are experiencing a shortage right now,” she said.

And a New York Harbor trader explained, “People don’t touch Russian barrels. You may see some on the water right now, but they were purchased before the invasion. There won’t be much after that. He added: “Nobody wants to be seen buying Russian products and financing a war against the Ukrainian people.”

So, as governments hold back on introducing sanctions on Russian oil, will it be unions and workers around the world who force their hand? With banks and other institutions also making it increasingly difficult to do business with Russia, and maritime and oil industry employees refusing to interact with Russian cargoes, the pressure will only mount on governments and companies to that they take even more action against Russia.

By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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