By Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
OIL workers have issued a three-day strike notice to the governments of Rivers, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Benue over alleged unfair labour practices by the management of Onne, Rivers State, Free Trade Zone, Cross FTZ.
Under the aegis of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, the workers demanded immediate recall of workers sacked for engaging in union activities and stop every act of impunity and injustice being meted out to oil and gas workers in the FTZ.
In a communiqué issued after a meeting of the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of their two unions on Onne FTZ in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the oil workers explained that the planned industrial action would commence on February 13 and will end on February 15, 2013.
They said during the three days action, all activities in the oil and gas sector the entire South East and South-South states except Delta and Edo states, would be crippled.
They warned that if after the three days’ warning strike, no concrete step was taken to correct the injustice by the employers in the FTZ, a full blown industrial action affecting the whole country and including but not limited to total shut down of the oil and gas production would be embarked upon.
According to them, the planned strike was in compliance with an earlier directive of the November 16, 2012 Joint National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of NUPENG and PENGASSAN in Calabar, Cross River State, which gave a three weeks ultimatum to companies operating in the FTZ, to allow unionisation in compliance with the Nigerian Labour laws.
The workers noted with dismay that more than two months after the expiration of that ultimatum, and despite intimating all concerned government agencies with the unwholesome anti-labour practices in the Onne FTZ, nothing had been done to redress the situation.
The unions were therefore being forced to embark on the warning strike to seek redress, saying “In trying to organise members in the Onne FTZ, we have lost members to sack, victimisation and humiliation, contrary to labour best practices and as guaranteed by Section 40 of the Nigeria Constitution, Nigerian Labour Laws and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 90.
In fact, companies in other areas of the zone which oversees Rivers, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Benue have relocated to the Onne FTZ just to avoid the existence and practice of trade unionism.
“We have reported severally the unfair labour practices going on in the Onne FTZ to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, but despite the lip service advice of the Ministry of Labour to authorities of the FTZ to respect constitutional rights of workers to join trade unions and bargain collectively, these companies in connivance with the authority of the FTZ and their collaborators in government, continue to deny Nigerian workers these inalienable constitutional rights.”
The workers noted that, as at August 2011, only five companies of the 123 companies operating in the FTZ allowed their members to join trade unions, while the leadership of the unions in these five companies were sacked for having the effrontery to join trade unions. They added that more companies have migrated to the FTZ since then.