Nigerian oil workers threaten with total strike

Jun 28, 2004 02:00 AM

Coalition of junior and Senior oil workers under the umbrella of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff association of Nigeria (NUPENGASSAN) has threatened a total shut down of the oil and gas industry.
Leaders of the workers rose from a joint meeting in Benin, Edo State capital, resolving to use the time lag to mobilise their union members for the task ahead. The decision to embank on what they termed "total strike" is also to stop the unfair labour practices which they said had eaten deep into the fabrics of employers in the sector who violate the labour laws with impunity in the rabid move to maximize profit at the expense of their employees.

President of PENGASSAN, Mr Louis Brown Ogbeifun, said the oil workers have decided to take their destiny into their hands by fighting government and the oil and gas employers over the sorry state of the sector which has brought untold hardship on the members of the two unions. Government had last year threatened a strike over the inability of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to make the refineries work, arguing that the moribund state of the refineries had rendered thousands of their members jobless.
Interventions from various quarters and appeals from the NNPC saved the situation following which government signed an undertaking last December 29 that the four refineries would be made functioning to optimal capacity by last May 31. At the expiration of the ultimatum, only the Warri refinery was said to have been ready for full production but soon broke down during a test run to “technical hitches".

Indications that the oil workers may embark on strike emerged when the President of PENGASSAN, Mr Louis Brown Ogbeifun, who is also the president of the coalition, said Nigerians should be prepared for turbulent days ahead because the workers were ready for showdown.
"It is becoming very obvious that either by acts or design, omission and or commission, the oil and gas sector must be ruffled, so that illegal bunkering, massive importation, of petroleum products which are detrimental to the economy and the general populace must stop”, Mr Ogbeifun told while reflecting on the need for the oil workers to act fast which is the basis of the proposed joint NEC meeting.

The workers announced that they will shut down public petroleum products installations if the federal government fails to fix the refineries by then. They are to embark on work-to-rule for two hours daily earning red apparel as a mark of protest of government's inability to repair the refineries and allow for easy availability of petroleum products and jobs for Nigerians.
They said since government is not ready to fix the refineries, the oil unions are also not prepared to continue to lose members on account of unemployment arising from non-functional refineries. The workers hinted that they had commenced mobilising their members for a total strike, if the work-to-rule yields no results.

A communique readin part:
"Privatisation of the refineries: The meeting noted with dismay that in spite of NUPENG and PENGASSAN insistence that the BPE should follow the due process in privatising the refineries, the bureau is still going ahead to rush the privatisation of the refineries.”
"Fuel price: The workers believed that fuel price instability will continue until we are able to produce fuel locally. Therefore we hereby call on the Government to put in place appropriate legislation for correcting market fluctuation which lead to incessant fuel price increases to cushion the effect on Nigerians.”
"Windfall from current crude sales: The national Assembly must ensure that substantial part of the current windfall from crude sales should be invested in building new refineries.”

"Pension reform bill: The in NEC frowns at the recently passed pension reform bill and therefore restates that, all companies in the oil and gas industry that run effective pension scheme should be exempted in line with the relevant sections of the passed bill.”
"Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR): In this era of deregulation, the joint NEC-in-session views the non-passage of petroleum Inspectorate Commission (PIC) bill as a stumbling block to the effective monitoring of the programme. In the light of the above, we call on the National Assembly to give the bill an accelerated passage.”
"Petroleum Training Institution: Despite earlier letters and communique to government on the issue of PTI funding, upgrading to an Institute of International standard and full implementation of 2003 collective agreement, we are worried that the Government has reneged on the agreement reached with the in-house unions. Also of concern is that government is going ahead with plans to affiliate the institute of a university. The joint NEC-in-session warns that our patience should not be taken for granted on the issues raised above and therefore should not be held responsible for whatever consequences that may follow.”

"Belbop and Conoil: In spite of all the efforts of PENGASSAN and NUPENG to improve local content in the oil and gas industry, it is worrisome that management of the aforementioned companies have continued to flout the invitations of Federal Ministry of Labour, National Assembly and various meetings called by the unions to address anti-labour practices in the companies. Therefore, the joint NEC-in-session hereby demands the immediate integration of union members who are currently placed on standby into the mainstream of the company while those who are denied the right to unionise should be allowed to do so. The failure of this shall lead to unpleasant consequences for the companies.”
"Shell Petroleum Development Company: The NEC received with the report of continuous efforts of SPDC management of implement “SOFU” (Securing Our Future) which in our view is aimed at reducing Nigerian workers in the company despite the National Assembly's committee on oil and gas industry directive. It was therefore resolved that, management shouldput on hold all further activities on “SOFU” and engage the in-house unions in fruitful consultations.”

Source: Daily Champion
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