By Victor Young
Leaders and members of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, Thursday threatened a nationwide strike over increasing unfair Labour practices by employers in the nation’s petroleum industry.
This came as the union picketed the operational offices of an indigenous oil services company; Variant Energy Services in Victoria Island, Lagos, and Trans Amadi Layout, Port Harcourt Rivers State, over alleged unfair Labour practices.
The union also decried alleged unwillingness by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, the principal to Variant Energy Services, to compel its contractor to do the right things in accordance to international best practices and Nigerian Labour Law.
Speaking on Thursday, picketing of Lagos and Port Harcourt offices of Variant Energy Services, NUPENP’s President, Prince Williams Akporeha, warned that the picketing exercise was the beginning of series of industrial actions that could culminate into a full-blown nationwide strike if the regulatory agencies and the federal government failed to call employers to order.
He said: ”We want to use this picketing to sound a note of warning to all employers in Nigeria’s oil industry that this is the beginning of series of industrial actions against unfair labour practices across the country.
“We are putting all regulatory agencies and the federal government on notice that we will not hesitate to declare a nationwide strike if these employers are not called to order.”
Meanwhile, the protesting workers condemned alleged refusal of the management Variant Energy Services, to respect the path of peaceful negotiation, using COVID-19 pandemic and slide in the global crude oil prices as part of the excuses to rationalize unfair labour practices at the expense of the already impoverished and depressed workers.
The picketing which, Vanguard gathered, began simultaneously in Lagos and Port Harcourt, was a fall out of NUPENG’s National Executive Council, NEC, meeting last week in Lagos.
In Lagos, the picketing started very early, with workers defying the early downpour and displaying placards with various inscriptions and chanted solidarity songs to drive home their demands.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘’Enough is enough over master-slave dialectic’’, ’’ Workers are not slaves’’, ’’Pay us our terminal benefits’’, ’’Pay us our money’’, “there shall be no peace for debtors’’, “We say no to Variant Energy anti-Labour posturing”, “Operation pay us our money on course”, “Variant Energy must be punished for violating labor/employment guidelines”, “injury to one is injury to all, Variant Energy must repent in the interest of industrial peace”, “NUPENG can no longer be hoodwinked” etc.
Addressing the picketers, Chairman of NUPENG Lagos Zone, Tayo Aboyeji, among others, said: “The unlawful termination of the employment of NUPENG members on October 28, 2019, in a very dubious manner and in violation of provisions of the extant labour law and failure of the management of Valiant Energy Services to pay the terminal benefits of the affected workers.”
The aggrieved protesters in their large numbers, wearing face masks and observing social distancing protocols and guidelines, insisted that they could no longer tolerate the flippant attitude of the management of the company and their principal company, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC,
Among leaders of union at the Lagos picketing included Rotimi Benjamin (NUPENG Vice President Lagos Zonal Council), Olusegun Ekun (NUPENG Vice-Chairman Lagos Zone), and Lanre Badmus.
Speaking from Port Harcourt, the Administration Head of the Port Harcourt Zonal office of NUPENG, Chinda Ejims, part decried the refusal of the management to honour the path of peaceful negotiation and also frowned at the use of COVID-19 pandemic and slide in the global crude oil prices as part of the excuses to rationalise unfair labour practices at the expense of the already impoverished and depressed workers.
He noted that “indecent work conditions, nonpayment of a severance package for workers whose jobs had been terminated laden with flagrant and unprocedural behavior would be resisted at all cost.”