Oil Workers Shut down ExxonMobil Office over Sack of Employees

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Affected workers to get special benefits, says company
Ejiofor Alike

Aggrieved oil workers of the United States’ oil giant, ExxonMobil Corporation, yesterday shut down the company’s corporate head office in Lagos indefinitely to protest an alleged attempts by the company to sack over 100 workers.

But in a swift reaction, the company has stated that the affected workers would be paid special benefits that were specifically designed for that purpose in line with existing labour agreements.

The protesting workers under the aegis of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) also accused the company of flagrant violation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act of 2010, by deploying expatriates to take over jobs for which there is local capacity.
The workers have also insisted that the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Nolan O’Neal, must be relieved of his duties.

PENGASSAN said in a statement issued on Wednesday, which was distributed by the protesters yesterday that “the plan is to withdraw our services totally from all our operating locations by midday tomorrow (December 15). The secretariat will keep you informed and updated as we arrive at that threshold. Injury to one is an injury to all!”

Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Restore Dignity of Labour Now,’ Flagrant Abuse of NCD Act,’ ‘No to indiscriminate sack of Nigerians,’ Nolan O’Neal must go now,’ ‘No to Racism in Nigeria,’ and ‘Expats taking over Nigerian jobs.’

The placard-carrying protesters blocked the entrance gate of the company and disrupted official activities.
The head office houses the two ExxonMobil affiliates in Nigeria – Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited.

When contacted by THISDAY, the company’s Manager in charge of Media and Communications, Mr. Oge Udeagha, said the sack was a limited programme that would impact only a relatively small fraction of the employees.

According to him, special benefits that were specifically introduced for this purpose would be paid to the affected employees consistent with existing labour agreements.

“The company also arranging special programmes to support the transition from the company for those affected. We respect the rights of our workforce and will continue to engage with them to resolve this situation,” Udeagha said.

He added that the company invests for the long term and are focused on maintaining a stable, well-developed workforce that are committed to treating its employees with respect and in accordance with applicable rules and regulations.

“ExxonMobil regularly evaluates its operations as part of a disciplined management process and continually strives to operate its business in as safe and efficient a manner as possible,” he added.

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and PENGASSAN had on October 26, threatened to go on strike over alleged plans by the international oil companies (IOCs) to sack 3,000 of their members.
The unions had also issued a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government calling for a halt to the sacking of their members by the IOCs.

The national President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese, who addressed the media at the end of the Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of the union in Effurun, Delta State, had alleged that Chevron Nigeria Ltd, ExxonMobil, Pan Ocean, Sapiem, and Hercules Oil and Gas Ltd, among others – had terminated the appointment of over 3,000 of their workers apparently over the current economic recession in the country.

“More than 3,000 of our members are affected. Chevron alone is about 1,500; Mobil is about 1,000; the entire workers of Hercules Oil & Gas are being asked to go home; Pan Ocean have since closed shop and are gone. Industry-wide, everybody is being asked to go. We are now asking ourselves where we are heading with the industry. We have lost so much of Nigerian personnel working in the oil and gas industry. What is happening in Nigeria cannot be compared to what is happening in other African countries. We want government to wake up and address some of these issues,” Achese had said.