March 24, 2019 / 7:04 PM / 3 months ago

Sonatrach CEO calls on staff to keep working during mass protests

ALGIERS, March 24 (Reuters) - Employees at Algeria’s state energy firm Sonatrach have the right to join street protests like the country’s other citizens, but their first duty should be to keep working, its CEO said in a newsletter to staff on Sunday.

Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour’s comments appear to be in response to an anonymous online call for oil firms to join a general strike on Tuesday.

Oil and gas exports from the OPEC member country have continued as normal since mass protests broke out a month ago calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years in power.

In the newsletter, seen by Reuters, Kaddour said he understood some staff wanted to join the historic protests and he was not restricting them from doing so.

However, he appealed to employees to keep working.

“I appeal to your high sense of duty to remind us all that Sonatrach is a business whose purpose is to provide our country and its people the means of development,” he said in the letter.

“It’s clear that our first duty is to maintain and continue our engagement for our nation,” he added.

Algeria is major gas supplier to Europe, especially Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. It produces around 135 billion cubic meters of gas annually and one million barrels a day of oil. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi Writing by Ulf Laessing Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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