PENGASSAN, NUPENG begin nationwide strike today

By The Citizen

Nigeria's two main oil workers' unions said they would launch an indefinite strike on Monday, threatening to hurt the output of Africa's largest oil producer.

'The strike will affect all operations in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, as members will be withdrawn from all oil and gas installations,' the unions said in a joint statement on Sunday.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) said the action was aimed at forcing the passage of a new law and meeting several other longstanding demands.

These include the adoption of the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill aimed at overhauling the inefficient and corrupt sector and tackling unfair labour practises by both oil companies and government agencies.

The President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Francis Johnson, said in a statement that other reasons for the strike include delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, global crude oil prices slump, non -implementation of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Content Development, NOGICD, Act to reflect Nigerians in management positions and expatriate quota law, and the appalling state of access roads to refineries and oil depots and facilities.

He said insecurity all over the country that has led to the death of their members; appointments in government agencies in disregards to succession planning; compulsory deduction from workers' salaries for the National Housing Fund, NHF, casualisation and contract staffing and unfair labour practices by companies and government agencies also forms part of their grievances.

According to the PENGASSAN's president, the unfair labour practices listed by the oil workers under the aegis of NUPENG and PENGASSAN include transfer and termination of national officers of the two unions.

He explained the strike will affect all operations in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, as members will be withdrawn from all oil and gas installations, saying all members have been fully mobilised to embark on indefinite strike on Monday (toda), and that the strike will not be suspended until there is a strong commitment from the government and affected managements/operators to resolve the issues.

The government, Johnson said, has refused to honour all engagements and agreements reached with unions on all issues of concerns including the turnaround maintenance of the refineries and ensuring adequate supply of crude oil to the refineries to ensure that they functional effectively and efficiently.

He said the unions also demand that the government put in place alternative strategies to stop pipeline vandalisation and crude oil theft; convene an industry stakeholders' forum on PIB status and falling crude oil prices and address the ongoing high rate divestment in the industry and its attendant job losses.

On casualisation and contract staffing, he said both NUPENG and PENGASSAN demand immediate conversion of all contract staff to regular staff in accordance with the approved contract, casual and outsourcing in the oil and industry guidelines.

In Port Harcourt, NUPENG, declared an indefinite strike beginning today (Monday) throughout the Port Harcourt zone, which comprise nine states across the country.

The states under the zone include Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers

National President of NUPENG, Comrade Achese Igwe, made the declaration yesterday during the union's thanksgiving, held at the All Saint's Anglican Church, Okochiri, Okrika, Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Igwe stated that the decision of the union was based on the sack of one Mrs. Elo, the National Zonal Secretary of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Port Harcourt zone, by French oil giant, Total.

According to him, 'It is not a threat; it is commencing tomorrow (Monday). We are graduating the processes. The issue is the sack of the national zonal secretary of PENGASSAN (Port Harcourt Zone), Mrs. Elo.

'The truth is that we cannot fold our hands to see these foreign investors coming with punitive measures in our own country.

'I keep saying this, in our nation, our cultures and ways of doing things differ. I want to say this clearly; no white man, no international community person, being an American, be it a Briton, borrows our culture. But what do we do? We borrow their culture and we think their culture is the best.

'Have we been able to ask ourselves, can't the Americans also borrow our culture and our way of life into their environment?

'Those behind these challenges are blacks; they are also Nigerians. We are saying, reinstate this woman. She was elected by the people to serve the people. But, all of a sudden, you said 'no' because she was elected as a woman; that the only thing you can do is to sack her and then you queried her.

'You begin to tell her that she must go on leave of absence. Fine, you offered a leave of absence but the union needs to sit down and X-ray the impact of that.

'But the next thing we saw was a sack. Now, we have been able to study the offer you made, restore this woman to job, you said 'no'. That because she was elected at the Port Harcourt zone, you want to transfer her back to the Lagos zone.

'But, the answer is no; she was elected in Port Harcourt zone, you cannot transfer her to Lagos. That is the political office of the workers. The workers elected her; she is representing the workers, not representing you as an institution or as a management,' the NUPENG President said.