House Probes Alleged Violation of Labour Laws by IOCs

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CHRIS NGIGE

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The House of Representatives has ordered an investigation into the alleged violation of labour laws by international oil companies (IOCs), including the casualisation of labour.

The House also directed the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, to provide to the Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity a performance update and report concerning plan to reform the process of granting and renewing recruiters’ licence to labour contractors as announced in July 2018.

The House took the decision following the adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Benjamin Kalu.

Kalu said Nigeria, as a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has ratified 40 international labour conventions, and has through the National Assembly enacted the Labour Act, among other labour-related laws, which Nigeria is sworn to protect the rights of workers in the country.

The lawmaker lamented the ugly trend of work in formalisation or casualisation in the oil and gas sector by IOCs leading to an uncertainty of employment for thousands of workers who are constrained to operate under very precarious conditions with near total denial of the benefits associated with permanent and decent work.

Kalu said a report published by the Campaign for Democratic Workers’ Rights pegged the number of casual workers in the Nigerian workforce at 45 percent, and also stated that 50 percent of the burden of casualisation exists in the downstream oil and gas sub sectors of the economy, telecommunications, banking, construction, mining and some other work places.

He stated that since the early 2000, the Nigerian oil sector has suffered the effects of incessant disputes between IOCs and organised labour unions over allegations of unfair labour practices levied against IOCs as a result of which, on several occasions, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) had planned industrial actions which had threatened nationwide fuel scarcity and hurt the economy as Nigeria stands to lose over N100 billion per day in the event of strike by NUPENG.

The legislator recalled that in July 2018, in light of the frequency of those allegations, the federal government announced a plan to reform the process of granting and renewing recruiters’ licence to labour contractors with the aim of ensuring adherence to expatriate quotas and eschewing unfair labour practices, despite allegations of unfair labour practices by IOCs still abound.

Kalu noted that a statement by the leadership of NUPENG after a recent meeting of its Central Working Committee (CWC) in Lagos alleged that IOCs are flagrantly flouting local and international labour laws; repeatedly engaging the services of unregistered and unlicenced labour contractors.

He said NUPENG also accused IOCs of massive exploitation and abuse of workers as well as some instances of elopement of IOC labour contractors with contract workers’ severance benefits, including Virtual Travel Network allegedly eloping with terminal benefits of 48 contract workers since 2015 and in another, Logistics Facility Affairs (LFA) contractor with Chevron Nigeria Limited allegedly absconding with workers’ final entitlements.

The House, therefore, directed the “Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity and other appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to address the challenges of exploitation and abuses of workers in the oil and gas sector.

“Mandate the Committee Labour, Employment and Productivity to investigate the allegations of violation of labour laws by IOCs, including the casualisation of labour, and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.”