By Victor Ahiuma- Young
WORKERS in the nationâ€™s petroleum industry, besides the increasing problems of casualisation of workers, contract staffing and management apathy towards unionisation of workers, are now being confronted with the dual challenges of global economic down turn and heightened militancy in the Niger Delta region which has become a serious threat to both the operations of oil companies and their job security.
Leaders of the workers under the umbrella of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), at the just concluded delegates conference of the Lagos zone, while acknowledging these challenges, however, assured the workers that despite the turbulent time, the leadership of union, especially of the zone is determined to protect, defend and fight for the rights of members to ensure a brighter future.
Addressing the delegates, President of NUPENG, Comrade Peter Akpatason, praised members for standing steadfast despite the challenges posed by globalisation, global economic recession and the crisis in the Niger Delta which has remained the greatest threat to job security of members.
He assured that irrespective of the challenges, the leadership of the union would continue to perform the role of fighting, defending and protecting the rights of workers in sector.
Comrade Akpatason posited that the leaders of NUPENG are convinced that very soon, the storm would be over and that a brighter future lies ahead for the industry and the workers, urging the workers to remain steadfast in their support of the leadership of the union.
He called on members of the tanker drivers branch of the union to cooperate with Lagos state government in ensuring that there is sanity on Lagos roads, especially now that the state government under Mr. Babatunde Raji Foshola (SAN), has been making efforts to make road transportation in the state less stressful.
Comrade Akpatason, however advised the government to curb the excesses of some of the officials of Lagos Transport Management Authority (LASMA) to avert unnecessary confrontation with the oil workers especially the tanker drivers.
Protection of members’s jobs
Addressing members in his acceptance speech, newly elected Chairman of the zone, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo, said the new leadership of the zone would focus among other things, protection of jobs of members and unionization of un-unionsed workers especially private Petroleum products depots.
Comrade Korodo noted that he benefitted much from NUPENG both in training and other areas and that having being elected Chairman of the zone, he had no excuse not to perform well and declared that training would be an important feature in the agenda of the new leadership of the zone.
According to him: â€œTraining of members and staff of the zone will be given utmost attention. This is because the challenges facing us in this dispensation are quite dynamic in nature and they require new skills, strategies and tactics, which can only be obtained through well planned training. Our focus will be on Trade Union education and Skills enhancement training for our members. This, we believe would help us defend and protect the rights of workers.â€
Protection of job interest: On job security and unionisation, he said: Comrades, I stand here to give you my assurance that I will use all resources at my disposal, human and material to defend the job interest of all our members. Ours shall be an injury to one of us, is an injury to all of us. We shall protect our collective interest with our collective resources.â€
Unionisation: â€œOur findings have revealed that there is a very large reservoir of non unionised workers in Lagos zone, most especially, among the private Petroleum Products Depots that litters around us. It is therefore our collective responsibility to organise and unionise them. We shall complement the efforts of the National Secretariat in this regards.â€
Comrade Korodo, lamented that despite the strategic position of zone in the industry, the zone could not boost of operation vehicle and declared: â€œIt is leally sad that our Zone, in spite of our strategic location, rich and robust relationship with managements and other well endowed branches in the industry, th zone can not boast of any official vehicle to use for the actualisation of our collective struggles. May I at this juncture assure you all that an official bus will be acquired for the zone sooner than you can think of.â€
Earlier, the then Acting Chairman of the zone, Comrade Olayemi Oluleye, told the gathering that the Zonal had made considerable improvements in the quality of life of members through the process of collective bargaining negotiations and renewal of expired Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with respective management.
Comrade Oluleye who was later elected Vice Chairman, said the CBA had impacted positively on job security of members, which is very paramount to the leadership and â€œ while other areas include ensuring maximum benefits for oil and gas workers with minimum or no crisis in the zone.
Regulation of relations and settlement of disputes between members and employers and between a member and another. Organizing zonal seminars and workshops for members/encouraging individual branches/units to do so. Unionization of workers in the formal and informal sectors into the Union; collaborative Union-Management relationship etc.â€
Also speaking, Vice-President of the zone, Comrade Osunde Monday, commended members of the zone especially those â€œ whose critic we took as challenges, whose support, encouragement and solidarity gave us the needed strength to forge ahead as a union that is well known for its doggedness in fighting for its membersâ€™ rights.
He argued that the union â€œyet to arrive at our desired destination. The road to it is still very rough and it is with your rightful support and with your good sense of judgement of the leaders you are going to choose today that will tell us how far we can go. Let us remember that management seems to have found a hiding place in the face of the monster known as the Global Financial Meltdown or call it the Global Financial Crises, and the contract services employment.
These are the common words been put forward to us today in depriving the workers their due entitlements and rights. Therefore, we have a lot ahead to do as a union. It is on the objective of these I counsel you all great Comrades, to wisely choose, highly intelligent, loyal, dedicated, unassuming and tactful crops of executives that will rise to the challenge at the test of time, as liberation of workers and quest for better working conditions of service struggles continue to take a new dimension and I believe we shall overcome.
Let me remind you now that what you sow, you reap, and what you give, you get and therefore, please let us always be our brotherâ€™s keeper. Let solidarity continue to be our watchword, as injury to one is injury to all.â€