By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAST week, leaders of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, International Oil Companies, IOCs, and other companies operating in Nigeria over alleged unfair practices.
The union warned that at the expiration of the ultimatum, if its grievances were not addressed satisfactorily, it would have no option than to declare a nationwide industrial action.
Giving insight into the union’s grievances, President of NUPENG, Prince Williams lamented alleged continued flagrant refusal by employers in the sector and government to attend to working conditions and welfare of members.
He explained that the “union is annoyed with the continuous, intentional and methodical, irrational redundancies, casualisation, ill-treatment, indecent and precarious working conditions of oil and gas workers ranging from refusal to allow unionisation, refusal to allow collective bargaining negotiation, non-payment of end of contract benefits, and other anti-labour practices against our members by both indigenous and multinational oil and gas companies in Nigeria, which are utterly alien to our extant industrial rules.
We found it extremely important to express our displeasure over failure of the employers of our Petroleum Tanker Drivers members, NARTO, to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement, CBA, reached with the union since 2016. As we address you today, it is just few months to the expiration of the said agreement, yet, most NARTO members have wickedly and callously refused and failed to honour its words or follow the path of integrity by executing what the association accented to.
The Petroleum Tanker Drivers have shown considerable endurance, patience and tolerance in the face of blatant deprivation and denial of their legitimate rights, even while toiling day and night under excruciating working conditions, putting their lives on the line to move the economy of our nation forward especially in the downstream value chain. Granting these hard working Nigerians their entitlements and rights should not be a difficult issue.”
However, speaking with Labour Vanguard, NARTO President, Alhaji Kassim Bataiya, said it was wrong for NUPENG to say the whole CBA had not been implemented, stressing that only some sections had not been implemented.
He assured that before the expiration of the ultimatum, NARTO would do its best to ensure full implementation of the CBA, lamenting that members were having challenges for fund especially.
According to him, the fund problem was created by the refusal of Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN, and Depots and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, DAPMAN, to pay for the services rendered to them claiming government was owing them.
He said: “We worked for them, their duty is to pay us. We have no business whether government is owing them or not. The payment for the services we rendered to them is not based on government paying their subsidy claims or otherwise before they pay us. They are the main reason why the remaining part of the CBA we reached with PTD members has not been implemented. We are also using this medium to appeal to them to pay us our money for us to meet our obligations to our employees.
“We condemn in strongest term how oil and gas workers in the industry are being treated by the multinational companies who use them as slaves in their motherland. These portfolio investors cannot continue to make billions in our country whilst their employees who are Nigerians suffer gross impoverishment and other precarious conditions; sadly this is reducing their life expectancy and creating physical and psychological adverse effects in them. This can no longer be tolerated.
You will recall a joint press statement issued by the leadership of both NUPENG and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, in May, 2018 condemning Service Level Agreement, SLA, reached between the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, and the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS.
“We remain resolute to ensure that reduction of contract circle to six (6) months duration be reversed. We find the agreement ridiculous and unfortunate and wonder how NCDMB allowed desperate OPTS to arm-twist it into making mockery of the key thrust of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development, NOGICD, Act of 2010.
We are dismayed over the activities of some contract workers’ contractors that are engaged by some oil and gas multinationals who have willfully refused to pay Nigerian workers their ‘end of contract benefits’ having disengaged them from active service. This is not only criminal but we see it as a slap on Nigeria and its government. It is also the responsibility of these oil companies whose contractors are culpable of this reprehensible and despicable act to prevail on them in order to revert to honour and decency.”
He argued that if these companies had no respect for the country’s institutions and extant labour laws, “we cannot remain unperturbed and watch the rot and deterioration in employment relations matters where our members stand as victims in such precarious circumstances and fail to intervene and offer them succor and respite.