STAVANGER, Norway, June 29 (Reuters) - Norwegian trade unions have d
ecided not to escalate the strike in the country's oil and gas sector and to meet again on Tuesday at 0900 GMT, union leaders told Reuters after a meeting on Friday.
The prolonged disruption to oil output from the world's eighth largest exporter pushed crude pices up on Friday. North Sea Brent crude futures rose $3 to $94.36 a barrel.
According to Norwegian law, an escalation of the strike could only come into effect four days after any decision is made.
A government spokeswoman said on Friday there were no plans for the state to intervene.
'The ministry's perspective on the strike has not changed, we will not do anything as of now. This is a conflict between the parties and we are following the situation closely,' senior adviser Gro Oerset said.
The government has powers to call an end to the dispute if it believes safety or national interests are at stake. The sector accounts for a fifth of gross domestic product and nearly half of Norway's exports.
Unions are demanding wage increases, better overtime pay and the right to retire at 62, but the Norwegian oil industry association (OLF) has refused to negotiate pensions.
'We are not ready to discuss that,' OLF spokeswoman Eli Ane Nedreskaar said when asked if the OLF would now be ready to discuss pensions.
The workers had estimated that about 18 percent of Norway's oil production of about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day has been shut by the dispute that began on Sunday, although the industry and the government's petroleum agency are using lower figures.
Some gas production has also been cut.
Unions face the difficult balancing act of pressuring employers without triggering government intervention.
'We feel we're at a good level that is well suited to avoid a forced settlement from the government,' Hilde Marit Rysst, head of the SAFE union told Reuters.
'We won't risk increasing the strike and trigger intervention (by the government) at this point,' she added.
Oil union Industri Energi said late on Thursday it believed daily output was down by about 290,000 barrels of oil, while operator Statoil gave a figure of between 230,000 and 250,000 barrels and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said it estimated the outage at 190,000 barrels.
Employers have the option of a lockout, which would threaten a full shutdown of all oil and gas production and virtually guarantee intervention by the government. It has so far been reluctant to use this weapon though, as it could poison future relations with unions.
(Additional reporing by Victoria Klersty and Nerijus Adomaitis, writing by Terje Solsvik, editing by William Hardy) Keywords: NORWAY STRIKE/
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