Uncertainty Looms over PENGASSAN Strike Due to Public Holiday

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FG to meet oil workers today

Ejiofor Alike in Lagos and Paul Obi in Abuja

Uncertainty hangs over the oil workers’ strike called by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) scheduled to start thursday, following the extension of the Eid-el-Fitr public holiday, THISDAY has learnt.

An official of the association, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity from Abuja, said the federal government had not declared today a public holiday when the strike was scheduled.

“We may have to make another statement on the issue because the strike was proposed based on the assumption that Thursday is a working day. The public holiday has changed the assumption and we may have to issue an update before the end of Thursday. You cannot declare a strike on a public holiday,” he explained.

Before the federal government extended the public holidays to include Thursday, senior oil sector workers were scheduled to commence their strike thursday.

The association had in a memo dated July 4 and signed by its acting General Secretary, Mr. Lumumba Okugbawa, directed all its members to withdraw from their duty posts at all oil installations, including upstream and downstream sub-sectors, as well as offices throughout the country from thursday.

The memo, which was addressed to all zonal chairmen, secretaries, branch chairmen and secretaries, had also directed the association’s four zones – Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna – to commence the sensitisation of its members on the planned action.

PENGASSAN cited the inability of the federal government to implement the agreements contained in the May 12, 2016 communiqué as their grievance.

According to the union, the unresolved issues include: lingering irregular joint venture funding and cash call payments; lack of a clear cut direction on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); forceful co-option of government agencies in the industry into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS); and the spate of redundancy and retrenchment in the industry.

The union also accused the federal government of frustrating constructive engagements to forestall the industrial action.
PENGASSAN also claimed that it tried to engage the federal government on May 24, 2016, but the engagement was inconclusive.

“The engagement was later fixed for June 23 this year, which did not take place and again for June 30 this year, which was unceremoniously cancelled with no date given,” PENGASSAN added.

“We see this as a deliberate attempt by the government to frustrate discussions on the myriad of issues raised in the communiqué, which are critical to the survival of the oil and gas industry in the country.
“Among the burning issues raised are that of the JV funding/cash call arrears, which has stalled new investments and the creation of jobs in the industry and which has consequently brought about massive job losses in the industry,” the statement had said.

After its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Calabar, Cross Rivers State on May 12, PENGASSN issued a seven-day ultimatum with effect from May 16 for the federal government to engage the group on their grievances.
The union also issued another seven-day ultimatum on June 19 after the expiration of the first ultimatum but no action was taken by the government, hence the planned industrial action.

But in a last minute bid to avert the strike, the federal government yesterday announced plans to meet with PENGASSAN and members of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in Abuja thursday.

In a circular issued in Abuja by the Deputy Director, Press in the Labour and Employment Ministry, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, the ministry said: “The Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige and the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu will tomorrow (today) hold a crucial meeting with Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to find lasting solution to the lingering problems in the oil and gas sector.”

According to the ministry, “The meeting is scheduled to hold on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Minister’s Board Room, 11th Floor, NNPC Towers, Abuja by 10.00 a.m. prompt.”