Members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have declared a strike from today Thursday to protest government’s alleged failure to perform its obligations that will enhance job security in the oil sector.
According to the Acting General Secretary of the association, Lumumba Okugbawa, members of the union would go ahead with the strike, faulting reports that the government had commenced talks with leaders of the u ion.
Okugbawa told Premium Times that the union was not aware of any negotiation between any arm of the association and the government on any of their demands.
“It is not true there are on-going negotiations between PENGASSAN and government. Apart from the inconclusive negotiation on June 23, which was rescheduled to June 30, only to be put off indefinitely with no further appointment, we are not aware of any other negotiation with government,” Mr. Okugbawa said.
He said reports of negotiations with the oil workers was part of the government’s characteristic way of causing confusion whenever a strike notice is issued.
“If government was sincere, why would it always wait till after the strike had already started before coming out in the media to talk about non-existing negotiations?” he asked.
Mr. Okugbawa said the Federal Ministry of Labour had sent an email to the leadership of PENGASSAN late on Wednesday inviting them to a meeting scheduled for Thursday (today) when the strike was planned to commence.
He said the ministry later sent a text message to reschedule the meeting for Friday, saying the previous schedule was not convenient, in view of the extended public holiday.
Explaining the union’s demands, Okugbawa said they bordered on issues that would guarantee the continued survival of the oil and gas industry and the country’s economy.
He listed some of the issues to include backlog of cash call arrears dating back to 2014, which he said had greatly hampered the ability of the joint venture partners with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to discharge their obligations both to the industry and their workers.
Other issues include the poor state of the country’s refineries and the massive waste of resources on turn around maintenance (TAM); continued importation of petroleum products; on-going industry reforms and NNPC restructuring as well as the politicisation of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“Nigerians must understand that without government’s counterpart funding to the joint venture budget (the cash call), there is no way the industry will grow. Where the NNPC and its partners are not able to meet their obligations to the JVs, the first casualties are the workers, who are our members,” Mr. Okugbawa said.
He said the era when the IOCs carried 100 per cent the funding obligations of the JV and recoup from the proceeds was gone, saying the government must wake up to its responsibility, by meeting its counterpart funding to the various JVs in the country.
The current gale of divestment by IOCs from the country, he said, was another way of rationalising the industry workforce and throwing more people into the labour market, pointing out that where the IOCs fold up, because they could meet their obligations, their workers would be sacked.
“The irresponsible behaviour of government is negatively impacting the economy and the operating environment. In the last two months, at least 50 workers in various service companies, namely Halliburton, Schlumberger, Sapetro, Fugro, Frontier, Universal, Arko, have been laid off by the IOCs, because they do not have the means to continue to engage them,” Mr. Okugbawa said.
He cited the case of Nigeria Agip Oil Company, which has not been able to engage the services its partner, Arco, for over three years, resulting in the sack of most of services firm’s workers.
On the insecurity in the Niger Delta, Mr, Okugbawa said the renewed attacks oil facilities by armed groups in the region have exposed most of its members to danger, as many of them lost their lives in recent attacks on Agip, Chevron and other companies in the region.
He decried the lack of involvement of oil workers in the on-going restructuring in the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), PPPRA, DPR, and PEF, saying the two unions should be consulted in the planning and implementation of such polices.
Source: PREMIUM TIMES