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Reforms: PENGASSAN examines challenges for stakeholders

Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
UMBRELLA body for senior staff in the nation’s oil industry, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), is becoming uncomfortable with the issues being thrown up by the ongoing reforms in the sector and it is not pretending about.

The association exploring ways to confront the challenges and as part of this, Lagos zonal council of PENGASSAN, gathered in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state, last week, to examine “Oil Industry Reforms: Challenges for stakeholders
Addressing participants, Chairman of Lagos Zone of PENGASSAN, Rev Sunday F. Oginin, noted that every stakeholder was being impacted by the reforms being seriously pursued by the government, stressing “it bites hard on us, all of us are trying to look out for survival strategy in our struggle to remain in the industry.”

Rev Oginin, posited that “it is the duty of the Association to defend the jobs of not only our members but also of Nigerians and to ensure that the laws of the country as regards the Rights to Freedom of Association and lawful Assembly as guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution are well protected.

Therefore, there is no other better time for us than now to come together and sincerely appraise as well as address the consequences of the reforms on the industry and of course on labour, our members.

Contract Staffing and Casualisation
The Lagos Zonal Chairman, while lamenting the menace contract staffing and casualisation, threatened that the association could be forced to shut down the oil industry over increasing casualisation of workers and other forms of unfair employment practices by oil companies operating in Nigeria called on the Federal government to call the oil companies to order through its relevant agencies in the interest of peace in the sector.

Rev Ogini, posited that the association had resolved to tackle the issue of casualisation of workers and other forms of unfair employment practices even if it meant shutting down the industry to instill the culture of decent employment practices in the industry.
According to him “one issue that has been a thorn in our flesh is the issue of contract staffing and casualisation of Nigerians. In the world over, contract staff earns more than the permanent staff because Management recognized the fact that contract staff do not have the welfare scheme that are enjoyed by the pensionable and permanent staff.

But in Nigeria the reverse is the case, as it is not the practice as obtainable in other parts of the world.   Multinational Companies see contract staffing as being synonymous with casual employment, cheap labour and in almost all cases result in what can be tagged “slave labour”. For instance, a permanent staff in an Oil Company may be earning N100,000 excluding other allowances.

He at times enjoys the Right to Freedom of Association, right to unionization which makes him able to participate in consultative forum to determine his career path and gains from the Company and at the end, has pension and gratuity. On the other hand, the contract staff earns a total emolument of N50,000, he is denied the right to unionize and therefore denied the Right to Freedom of Association and Lawful Assembly.

He has no platform to have an input in the Collective Bargaining process, neither can he negotiate his employment welfare and well-being and has no enhanced terminal benefits, among others.

So, the man wastes the best part of his life for an organization and he is unable to do any other hobby or invest his energy in areas that can guarantee his future during this active life, and at the end retires a pauper, while the Company he helped to build declares billions of profit every year. This group of people eats up their future and psychologically dies gradually while on active service.  Their children are indirectly affected by this ignoble action of the Managements.

The question then is, is this fair?  What is good for the goose should also be good enough for the gander.  A worker without a future and a say in matters relating to his own growth is a slave. We must not allow this attitude to continue.

Expatriate quota abuse, golobalisation
On expatriate quota abuse, he said: “We are not against expatriates coming to Nigeria as the country cannot be an Island on its own. We welcome them because the little development we have is traceable to their magnanimity; after all, our own brothers as Managers of local content subject us to worse slave antics and behaviours than the multinationals.

But as an Association whose main obligation is to protect the jobs of its members, we should not condone any antics of the managements to bring every “Tom, Dick and Harry,” all in the name of expatriates to come and take jobs meant for Nigerians.

Also all laws relating to expatriate quotas should be strictly adhered to by the managements in the oil and gas industry. However, this should not becloud our sense of judgment and make us to sweep under the carpet any act(s) of illegality perpetrated against us.

The pursuit of the Local Content Policy (LCP) of the government if implemented as it is supposed to be done, can also pose serious challenges to us as labour. We must show that we are equal to the task and I have no doubt in my mind that we can till the space to be created by the policy.”

“Globalization has reduced the world into a village where what affects one country, no matter how far apart, can spread all over the world. The practical example of this is the recent global economic crisis that collapsed most developed economies of the world and the waves of what is currently blowing on Nigeria.

We must not say that the finance industry is the only one affected but we must realize that the negative effects are manifesting in every sector of the economy/I -including the Oil and Gas Industry. The global economic crisis is making the impact of the ongoing reforms in the oil and gas industry to bite harder on all stakeholders, employers and labour as well as ordinary Nigerians.

The economy of which our industry is a mainstay has plummeted as a result of the waves of the global crisis. There are many other challenges emanating from the implementation of the ongoing reforms in   j the Oil and Gas Industry and these, I hope our facilitators will do justice to it in the course of this workshop, as I don’t want to preempt the good stuffs they have in stock for us.


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