Venezuela State Oil Company to Expand Work Force by 50%

CARACAS, Venezuela:
State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA will expand its work force
by more than one-third next year, President Hugo Chavez said Friday.

The company, known as PDVSA, currently has about 74,900 employees
and will increase that figure to 101,590 in 2008 and more than 113,800
in 2009, Chavez said during a speech to students.

Buoyed by record oil prices, the state company has rapidly boosted
its payroll as Chavez's government assumes majority control of at least
four major oil projects previously run by major multinationals.

As recently as 2005, the state company had just 44,000 workers, a
majority of them hired by private contractors. The company fired more
than 18,000 of its employees in early 2003, following an opposition-led
national strike intended to cripple Chavez's government.

Chavez also reiterated Friday that PDVSA, whose top customer remains
the United States, plans to boost oil exports to China and has formed
joint ventures to eventually operate three refineries there.

The company also plans to triple its tanker fleet, partly by setting up
its own shipbuilding factory in Venezuela, Chavez said. The country
will also begin manufacturing its own oil drills soon, he said.