The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria PENGASSAN, have rejected planned sack of no fewer than 1100 workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and threatened to shut down the nation’s petroleum sector should the management go ahead with the sack.
Similarly, organised labour condemned the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, describing it as anti-labour.
Labour expressed surprise and embarrassment that the Minister of state, Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, could make such a statement on retrenchment of workers in the NNPC without consultation or recourse to the two Unions in the oil and gas sector; NUPENG and PENGASSAN.
NUPENG in a statement by its President, Igwe Achese, vowed that organised labour in the petroleum sector would resist such a move, as the cardinal policy of President Buhari Government was job creation and not job losses.
According to NUPENG, “we cannot watch and see our members who have served for years to be thrown into the unemployment market because of inconsistent policies of the government. NNPC workers are the best because they have continued to keep the oil and gas sector moving even when they have to work with obsolete equipment and indecent work environment. The workforce should not be used as guinea pigs but commended. The unbundling of the firm into four companies and intended restructuring should not have anything to do with sack of 1,100 workers which is one sack, too many.
“We advice the Federal Government to convene a major stakeholders’ meeting to x-ray the challenges facing the sector and proffer solutions, rather than chasing shadows. Towards this, it should ensure that the stakeholders’ meeting look at the Petroleum Industry Bill together before it is represented. The current policy of the NNPC to engage casual workers is against the extant labour laws of the country and should be condemned and a stop put to it. We believe that the impending retrenchment will be counter – productive and should not be allowed as we will resist it and call out our members to protest the action if the two oil unions in the sector are not consulted.”
On its part, PENGASSAN, while condemning the proposed PIB and describing it as anti-labour, vowed to resist the plan by the Federal Government to retrench workers, especially employees of NNPC as a result of the restructuring in the proposed PIB.
The association argued that the planned sack was not in tandem with the “change” that the government promised Nigerians, especially in the area of job creation.
Reacting to the official release of the proposed draft institutional and legal frameworks for reforms in the oil and gas industry by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who is also Group Managing Director, GMD, of the NNPC, PENGASSAN Acting General Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, said that the provisions in the proposed PIB were not only anti-labour but also not in the national interest.
The PENGASSAN scribe, who commended the renewed effort by the Minister to rejuvenate the reforms after several failed attempts in the past, noted that PENGASSAN had always been in support of the reforms in the oil and gas industry but with a caveat that it must be transparently done to make sure that stakeholders in the oil and gas industry were carried along.
He, however, contended that PENGASSAN would not support any reforms that jeopardized the welfare of its members, noting that the restructuring would be resisted if it negatively affected the Association’ members.
On the plan to sack half of the current NNPC’s employees, Okugbawa said that the plan if carried out would further compound the unemployment situation in the country, arguing that there was nothing wrong with the unbundling of the NNPC to bring about greater efficiency and effectiveness.
He insisted however, that the unbundling and repositioning of the corporation should be done with human face, saying “ we have said on many occasions that the problem of the NNPC is not the workers but the high level of political interference in the corporation and we are satisfied that the current government has promised to give the Corporation free hand to operate for better service delivery to the Nigerian nation. Some of the inconsistencies noted by PENGASSAN in the draft bill include : a subtle ploy in Section 87 (Transfer of Staff) to retrench or drop some of the work force transiting to the new Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC) with the contentious clause ‘’transfer of certain employees”