By Fortune Eromosele
Oil workers in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, under the aegis of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, commenced a three-day warning strike, over government’s refusal to pay them their three months salary and attempt by the government to forcefully enroll them into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
Addressing journalists, the National Public Relations Officer (PRO) of PENGASSAN, Mr. Fortune Obi, stated that if after the warning strike elapses, and their demands were not met, the strike would be escalated nationwide.
He argued that the government had not done enough to convince them that the IPPIS was robust enough to handle the peculiarities of the oil and gas sector, adding that lumping them with civil servants was an error.
The striking workers comprise the staff of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), and Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA), among others.
Obi insisted that there was currently no problem with the existing platform, while he accused the government of ulterior motives for insisting on moving the workers to the new platform.
He said: “It’s a three-day warning strike by members in the government regulatory agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum basically because of their inclusion in the IPPIS system, which we have rejected ab initio, due to the various challenges we have had with it and the associated inefficiencies.
“PENGASSAN resolved about the system long ago. We want assurance that this system is robust enough to handle the challenges. We are saying we work in a peculiar sector where our members earn some allowances different from the civil service structure.
“Therefore, lumping us into that platform without capturing the peculiarities is unacceptable. Because of that, for the past three months, our members in these agencies have not been paid their salaries.
“We have said clearly that we work in a peculiar environment, where earned allowances are different from the civil service payment system. In the civil service, they do not work offshore, they do not work in tank farms, they do not work in haulage system, so for personnel from the peculiar agencies, there are earned allowances. These are not captured in the IPPIS system.
“We need the guarantee that this system is robust enough to capture these issues. You can’t just go and implement something on a platform that is generally for civil servants and their structure. They must consider us as peculiar operators within the system.”
“We work in circles in certain locations. In the civil service, it’s not circle driven. So, if I am working in an FPSO located in the Gulf of Guinea and my work circle is 28 days in, 28 out, as I return, how am I going to get my earned allowances.
“What the International Oil Companies do is to book it into their system. We need the assurances, otherwise, leave us where we are currently because that same application we are using currently is domiciled with the accountant general. So why the change to a system that is not reliable?
“Low cadre persons can break the security of that system; it is not robust enough. We have made frantic efforts to call the attention of the government to our people’s peculiar issues. Nothing is done.”