Oil Workers Likely to Call off Strike after Meeting With Govt

  • Continue dialogue with labour minister, oil companies wednesday

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Senior oil workers union under the umbrella of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) are likely to call off their almost five-day-old nationwide strike following a successful meeting with the federal government yesterday in Abuja, THISDAY has learnt.

The paper gathered that the meeting which was held at the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, successfully addressed all except one of the issues raised by the union as reasons for the strike.

Barring any last minute change of direction in the dialogue which has largely gone on smoothly, they may call off their strike after the outstanding issue is addressed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, at a meeting in his office tomorrow.

But even at that, the outcome of yesterday meeting did not push the unions to immediately call off their nationwide strike, instead they opted to run it through their National Executive Council (NEC) tomorrow after the meeting with Ngige and the oil companies.

The meeting, it was learnt, will address the alleged unfair labour practices perpetrated by oil companies against their worker and which the union is protesting.
President of PENGASSAN, Francis Olabode Johnson, however told journalists after the meeting that a final decision on the status of the strike will be reached after the NEC meeting. He said until such happens, the strike was still in force.

Notwithstanding Johnson’s position, Ngige in his response to questions from reporters after the meeting said the government expected the unions to take a reasonable position going forward, having addressed their complaints.

He said: “We had a wonderful meeting, a good meeting and we provided PENGASSAN the information on the various issues that needed clarification.

“The issues as you know range from JV cash call, they felt that because the federal government has not paid, it is making the IOCs not to invest more and closing down and laying off workers. The minister of petroleum resources did good justice to that and he will explain to you what he said.
“We looked at the issue of collective bargaining agreement reached on their condition of services for their various agencies and it was also addressed. The remaining portion of that area we will give a timeline for it to be addressed.

“We looked at IPPIS and a committee is sitting on it now to know which agencies under the purview of the oil industry can benefit from such waiver. The agencies that fall under it will be captured,” said Ngige.

He further stated: “We only have one matter outstanding and that will be addressed tomorrow because the IOCs are not here. A lot of the companies have undertaken by their (PENGASSAN) own allegations, unfair labour practices: laying people off without going through the normal clause in the labour Acts, and even rusticating people who are officers of their union because they undertake labour acts, we felt it is unjust and that meeting will continue tomorrow in my office.”
He said on PENGASSAN’s position on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB): “The senior special assistant to the president on national assembly matters, Senator Enang, gave us proper elucidation on where the bill stands today, everybody was satisfied and we now fashioned out a roadmap on how to get it out so that it will address some major burning issues.

“Tomorrow, we expect PENGASSAN to brief their NEC and after that they will tell Nigeria what they think.

“This meeting is not inclusive and that was our timetable and they know. The IOCs are not here today because we did not invite them and we envisaged that this meeting will be long that is why we asked the IOCs that were involved to come tomorrow for the industrial relations issues,” Ngige added.

On his part, Kachikwu said: “The meetings were collaborative. They were deliberate and frank and in most of the key areas, I think we had a collaborative landing. All the issues that we planned to handle today, we reached conclusions but one singular item, we said from point one, we will handle tomorrow because they involved third party but the relationship was cordial in terms of solutions.”

Johnson further said: “We want to commend and appreciate Mr. President for the high power level delegation he has brought in. I also want to thank the ministers. We had a very robust engagement and we know that the NEC members that gave the go-ahead for this strike are on their way to Abuja and after the meeting tomorrow we will look at it.

“We will have our NEC meeting tomorrow and speak on what it will be. So the strike is still on.”
PENGASSAN had last week commenced a nationwide strike citing the government’s neglect of agreements reached with it in the past on how to upgrade the dwindling status of operations in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry as its reasons for the strike.

It also said the government has remained indifferent to the passage of the PIB, a bill that hopes to review and reposition operations in Nigeria’s oil industry