Yemen  Hunt Oil Company – Trouble All Around: STRIKES, LAWSUITS, BAD IMAGE, ETC. [Archives:1998/21/Local News]

May 25 1998

A senior official at the Ministry of Oil summarized the problems Yemen Hunt Oil Company (YHOC) has these days. “It is sheer arrogance. They are behaving like they own everything here.”As a result, the company has difficulties at many fronts. The following list highlights some of the major ones.
Workers at YHOC have decided to go on strike starting on June 2nd. They are demanding the company honor agreements that have been agreed upon, some of them dating back to 1993 and 1994.
The chairman of the Refinery and Oil Fields General Labor Union, Mahmood Al-Maqtary, in a statement to Yemen Times, specified the workers’ demands:
1- To introduce regular raises;
2- Comprehensive health care for the workers and their families, to be treated inside and outside Yemen as the need arises;
3- Risk allowance;
4- Tenure difference benefits;
5- Overtime and night-shift extra payments.
The union official said, “We put our demands to the Prime Minister, Dr. Abdulkareem Al-Iryani, and the relevant ministers. The company does not care for its Yemeni workers.”The government has now formed a committee to mediate between the workers and the company. The union did not show interest in this. “We have agreements which YHOC must simply honor,” insisted Mr. Maqtary.
Today, Monday, May 25th, 1998, depositioning will start in Yemen of a court case filed in Dallas, Texas, against YHOC by Arabian Catering Company (ACC). Lawyers from the two sides plus an official of the Yemeni judiciary are going to question witnesses and persons connected to the case.
ACC has filed demands for a compensation of US$ 3 million regarding its catering contract with YHOC. Its lawyer, Steven Dickenson, says he can prove YHOC acted with malice and in a discriminatory manner. “I will prove to the courts that YHOC discriminated against ACC.”
Mohammed Al-Harazi, President of the company, goes one step further. “YHOC discriminates against Yemenis altogether.” He even implies the company despises Yemenis and does not care about their interests.
Many people, even some working for YHOC, agree with him.
The Ministry of Oil has many problems with the company. The last problem flared when the company tried to capitalize on a request to allow an electric line to the city of Marib.
The people of Marib, the real owners of the oil which YHOC has been pumping for years, requested that the company share with them some of the excess electricity generated by the company at Safer. At long last, the company agreed to a 3 megawatt line connection. It asked for a US$ 16,800 monthly operating cost, although YHOC will not incur any new costs. It asked for US$ 307,000 in new equipment costs, although the government had said it would provide them itself.
But the straw that broke Marib’s camel is the insistence of YHOC to sign a contract before the lights are turned on. The contract would authorize the company to deduct those and other costs from the government’s share of oil revenue automatically.
Finally, YHOC has a real problem with its image in the country. The arrogance of the company has left many officials in the Ministry of Oil with a bad taste in their mouth. The bitterness has grown to the extent that many oil ministry officials are asking what leverage the company has on Yemeni officials in high places of authority.
“If they (YHOC) think they can push everybody around by buying a few senior officials, they are in for a surprise,” said a leading labor unionist.
Even among intellectual circles, it is clear that the company is seen as parasitic. When YHOC is compared with Canadian Oxy, which has provided some US$ 3 million in a scholarship fund, it comes out poorly, indeed.
A senior government official still chuckles as he remember that the company had requested authorization to carry over to its accounts in Yemen the cost of a dinner reception the company was supposed to host for him in New York, a few years back.