Onungwe Obe in Yenagoa
Five former contract workers of oil producing giants, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), who worked at the company’s Qua Iboe Oil Export Terminal, have died without receiving their full terminal benefits.
The deceased were among 70 members who were sacked by the company in 2009 without being given their severance packages.
A former Chairman of Contract Workers branch of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in MPN, Mr. Peter Akpenka, told journalists in Yenagoa that though MPN eventually paid the sacked workers in 2018, what was paid fell short by about N600 million.
He alleged that the national leadership of PENGASSAN had been insensitive to their plight by trying to create a dichotomy between contract workers and regularised workers.
“We were locked out while our employment contract was still running, and under our labour laws, when there is such a breach of existing contract, the terminal benefits reflect and one is compensated for the breach.
“It took them nine years to pay part of the benefits in 2018, and they are still holding on to the balance. So we are at a loss as to why our own union is working against us.
“Rather than use the subsisting Collecting Bargaining Agreement as at the time of our disengagement in August 2009 to compute our benefits, they connived and used an old discarded template, hence the shortfall.
“We have communicated to them several times in writing-written reminders-while this matter lingered over the years, and they have taken no action,” he said.
MPN’s Area Procurement Manager, Mr. Rotimi Olubeko, had in a letter dated November 15, 2017, confirmed the termination of the workers and authorised that severance benefits be paid to the disengaged workers.
Also, Mr. Mathew Oloche of Sigmund had said the company was only an intermediary between MPN and its contract staff, adding that the company worked out the benefits of the disengaged staff in line with MPN’s Human Resources Policy.
Another labour contractor, who did not want his name mentioned, said MPN management and PENGASSAN had set up a verification committee to determine the amount payable to the disengaged workers, saying the committee should be held responsible for any shortfall.
Reacting to the allegations, the General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Mr. Lumumba Okugbawa, said it was not correct to say that the union abandoned its members.
“Their sack in 2009 was a major challenge to the union and across the industry. We tried our best in getting the issue resolved. We did what we could under the prevailing situations.
“They are our members, and rather than criticise the union openly, they should exhaust internal mechanisms to resolve the conflict by going back to their local branches of PENGASSAN, the union is still there,” Okugbawa said.