Striking Argentina oil workers demand talks after deadly refinery blast

(Reuters) - Unions representing thousands of striking oil workers in Argentina demanded talks with business leaders over job safety on Friday, a day after a walkout to protest an explosion at a refinery that killed three people, a union leader said.

"From 2018 to date, 15 colleagues have died. This is a job, not a war to go and die in," said Marcelo Rucci, secretary general of the Private Oil and Gas Union of Rio Negro, Neuquen and La Pampa, the country's largest oil union.

"We can't continue to lose lives to satisfy disproportionate production targets," added Rucci, whose union represents some 25,000 workers, including some employed in the prized Vaca Muerta shale oil fields in the western province of Neuquen.

The workers downed their tools on Thursday after a fire in a storage tank led to an explosion at the New American Oil (NAO) refinery in the town of Plaza Huincul in Neuquen.

Argentina's government is investing in infrastructure projects it views as key to helping the South American country reverse a deep energy deficit that is costing it billions of dollars.

Vaca Muerta, home to the world's second-largest unconventional gas reserve and fourth-largest oil reserve, is expected to bring in $2 B in revenue from oil exports this year, five times more than last year.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Paul Simao)

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