Abuja – The Federal Government has appealed to major oil marketers operating in the country not to retrench workers in the oil and gas sector.
Minister of Labour and Employment Sen. Chris Ngige, made the appeal on Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting he held with the leadership of PENGASSAN, NUPENG and the International Oil Companies.
He said that the meeting was fallout of Monday’s meeting held to address the concern raised by PENGASSAN and NUPENG on the declaration of redundancy by the major oil marketers.
PENGASSAN had threatened to embark on a nationwide strike beginning from July 7 over some issues, including the alleged mass sacking of its members by various oil and gas companies.
Ngige urged the IOCs not to declare redundancy as the last resort if there was economic downturn in the country, saying that it should be declared in the proper manner.
He said: “Government will not say you should not declare redundancy; redundancy will always come if the economy is not doing well.
“That is why it is in the Labour Laws of every country; but what we are against is when this particular law is applied strictly as it is enshrined in the labour laws.
“Companies sometimes carry out redundancy immediately without discussion or without even informing the workers, this is very wrong.
“The redundancy law as stated in Section 20 of the Act defines redundancy as when you cannot carry on with the number of staff you have due to circumstances beyond your control.
“You must discuss with the workers or the workers representatives directly and you must show them why the situation is like that.
“This may include showing them the books of the company, explaining to them that the company is not doing well and then you all agree on the difference.”
The minister explained that the labour law stated that redundancy should not be embarked on due to personal dislike.
He urged the companies to adhere to the rules and regulations when dealing with the issue of redundancy if such issue was already in the purview of the ministry.
He noted that labour laws were meant to protect the employees and iron out issues affecting both parties before things are damaged.
“There are other ways of preventing redundancy -that is by looking at the expatriate quota; you know what it costs keeping one expatriate in this country, so you can find a way of reducing them.
“Another way is that you can also look at the peaks of offices in the managerial and the management section and you can come down on it.
“These are some of the various ways we can use to maintain equilibrium in the employment of labour market in any country.
“When you push people into the labour market, they will join the army of unemployed persons and can constitute security nuisance to us,” he said.
The minister said other issues being discussed at the meeting include unjust labour practices by the oil companies, cases of rustication of job and positions due to union activities , among others.
PENGASSAN President Mr Johnson Olabode assured that if the issues affecting the unions could be concluded in the meeting, its National Executive Council would call an emergency meeting to call of its strike.
“I want to assure that if this meeting is properly concluded, we will do the needful,” he said, and commended the minister for his commitment to amicably resolve the issues affecting the sector.