11 February 2014, Lagos – The organised labour has raised the alarm over increasing job losses arising from the ongoing disinvestment by International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the nation’s oil and gas industry.
This is despite assurances by operators and regulators that the move is good for indigenous participation in core upstream activities.
Union leaders in the oil and gas industry said the spate of disinvestments of certain onshore assets by some IOCs is adversely affecting members in the sector even as they estimated that over 15,000 jobs will be lost before the end of the year.
THISDAY gathered that two multinational oil companies have already informed the oil workers’ unions of their intention to sack half of their workforce towards the end of the first quarter of the year as part of their divestment plan.
The companies have met with the leadership of the labour unions and negotiations are ongoing as to how payment will be made to the affected workers.
Lagos Zonal chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Rev. Folorunsho Oginni, who confirmed this development in an interview with THISDAY, said the union is taking steps to ensure that the interests of members are adequately protected.
He blamed the federal government for the divestment of assets by multinational oil companies, stressing that government have failed to create the enabling environment for indigenous oil firms and IOCs to thrive.
Specifically he said government has failed to address the myriad of challenges in the sector, which include endemic oil theft, illegal bunkering, piracy, destruction of gas assets in the Niger Delta, and the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
He expressed fear that the indigenous oil firms that will take over the assets of the multinationals will massively disengage workers in the sector, going by their antecedents as slave drivers.
“If you ask an average oil worker who do they prefer to work with, they will tell you multinational oil companies. This is because Nigerian investors are slave drivers. When they take over these companies, they will sack our workers and employ casuals. This they will do through outsourcing.
“Foreign owners are more concerned about the welfare of workers than Nigerian investors. The current problems we have today in the industry are caused by Nigerian owned companies because they always bring their anti-workers policies into their operations,” Oginni said.
Another unionist who spoke on the condition of anonymity said massive jobs loss is eminent going by the spate of divestment by IOCs in the country.
The labour leader said the unions are handicapped as they cannot force the multinational companies to change their policies. He however stressed the need for unions in the sector to build a strong financial base and buy into the assets of the multinationals in order to save the jobs of their members.
“There is nothing the unions can do in this regard because majority of the oil wells where divestment is taking place is being taken over by Nigerian investors who are known to be slave drivers. The labour law says you cannot force a willing employee on an unwilling employer. The only thing the unions can do to save the job of members is to set money aside in their annual budget to buy into these assets, which I believe they can do if they are willing,” the unionist said.
– This Day