09 June 2013, Lagos – NIGERIA Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, at the weekend issued a 14-day strike notice to the Federal Government over disputes with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Chevron Nigeria Limited and Agip Oil Company.
At a briefing after its Central Working Committee, CWC, President of NUPENG, Achese Igwe, threatened that if before the expiration of the ultimatum, the government did not summon stakeholders’ national conference on Oil and Gas to address among others, labour issues in the sector, the union would declare an indefinite nationwide strike.
NUPENG lamented the worsening unfair labour practices by multinational oil companies operating in the country and singled out SPDC, Chevron and Agip Oil, for inflicting inhuman treatment on Nigerians.
It contended that if the agreement reached with the multinational companies at a meeting called by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, in May 2012, was implemented, these issues would have been resolved.
Igwe accused Agip Oil of terminating appointment of 93 contract workers that had worked for between 25 and 35 years, without benefits despite directive by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
He also accused the oil giants of promoting 96 workers who have spent over 15 years as contract workers as NUPENG members to Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, contract staff instead of converting them to full time workers.
Igwe accused Chevron of not only converting workers from contract labour to service labour and refusing them collective bargaining agreement or allowing them to join the union, while he accused SPDC of refusing to have Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA, with the workers and denying them the right to join union, among others.
According to him, contract staff of Agip were presently on strike in Port Harcourt and if the issue was not resolved as soon as possible, it would degenerate into national strike, saying “we can no longer fold our arms and allow fellow Nigerians to be enslaved in their country.”
He said : “Before now, Chevron had what was called the big six contractors paying over 1800 workers. Some of the workers had worked for over 30 years and were unionized. Suddenly, Chevron terminated their appointments and said it was rolling them over. Before we knew what was happening, Chevron balkanized the six contractors into 16 contractors and brought back these workers under service labour, refusing them to be unionized and denying them other rights. Under the service labour, their jobs are no longer safe, meaning they can be sacked any day without notice.
For Agip, 93 contract workers were sacked by Agip without paying them terminal benefits. These workers were interviewed and employed by Agip and handed over to contractors to be paying them. Some of them had served the company for over 30 years. When the issue was reported to the Ministry of Labour in Port Harcourt, Agip was directed to pay their terminal benefits.
As we speak, it has refused. Apart from that, Chevron also promoted 96 contract workers who were NUPENG members to PENGASSAN contract staff instead of converting them to permanent staff having spent over 15 years as contract workers. Presently, the contract staff are on strike, and any moment from now, it will snowball into a nationwide strike. We are giving the Federal Government, the Ministry of Petroleum, the National Assembly among other well meaning Nigerians and groups , a 14-day ultimatum to intervene and summon an all embracing stakeholders national conference to address all labour issues in the industry failing which, we will declare an indefinite nationwide strike.”
*Victor Ahiuma-Young, Vanguard