NUPENG threatens strike over alleged anti-labour policies in Shell, Chevron

By The Citizen

The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has warned on Thursday that it would embark on a nationwide strike over alleged victimisation and severance of its union officials in Chevron and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

National President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, at the Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting yesterday said the union would begin with a 14-day ultimatum before it embarks on a three-day nationwide strike if nothing is done.

According to the union, its grouse with both companies are the prolonged anti-labour posture, planned retrenchment of 120 of its members, non-recognition of union activities and plans to pay only one month basic as severance benefits.

Achese said the union was disturbed about the alleged dilly dallying posture of Chevron management over the seeming refusal to allow unionisation by the re-absorbed members by the labour contractors.

'These issues led us to writing a protest letter to the Secretary to the Federal Government, which led to the intervention of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Despite the intervention of the NNPC management, Chevron and its labour contractors are still reluctant to allow unionisation to enable the unions collect dues and effective representation of the workers, even when union representatives' committees have been set up.   At the moment, the workers are being intimidated and deprived of lots of benefits. We are tired of the buck-passing by NNPC and Chevron and we say enough is enough, despite the fact that we have held several meetings.'

Achese said: 'It is against this backdrop that we are notifying the management of Chevron and the agencies responsible for the resolution of the matter that they have failed and we have no other option than to issue a 14-day ultimatum, failure which to recognise the caretaker committees set up in Chevron and resolve all the outstanding issues, the union will embark on a three-day warning strike nationwide. This is because the management of Chevron is out to emasculate NUPENG from the entire work system and are even encouraging our members to join our sister union, PENGASSAN in a divide-and-rule policy.'

NUPENG said: 'We have already written to the Presidency, the Minister of Petroleum and the National Assembly to protest the casualisation of our workers and refusal to allow our members exercise their civic responsibility in organising and belonging to a trade union.

'In the Shell Petroleum Development Company, the management has directed the labour contractors to lay off over 126 of our members who are contract workers, as a result of their divestment from the Western operation. The annoying aspect of the planned retrenchment is that they will be paid only one month basic as severance package. We see this as an insult, injustice and a mark of disrespect for our labour laws.'

He called on the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, to intervene and put the retrenchment exercise on hold until all the labour issues are resolved with Shell and the contractors, or face the necessary consequences, as 'injury to one, is an injury to all.'