Stories by Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE increasing loss of jobs and high level of depletion in membership were parts of the focal issues that dominated the National Executive Council, NEC, meeting of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In fact, for members of the union’s NEC, the spate of redundancies and closures of oil firms in the country at the moment is unprecedented, insisting that the government needs to do something fast to arrest the situation.
NUPENG in a communique issued by its President and General Secretary, Igwe Achese and Joseph Ogbebor respectively, called for a special intervention machinery to address the causes of the closures and redundancies with a view to saving jobs in the industry.
According to the communique, “The increasing loss of jobs and high level of union membership depletion in the industry was one of the major issues discussed and deliberated upon at the meeting, with the NEC-in-session attributing the worrisome situation to unprecedented spate of redundancies and closures of oil firms in the country. The house finds the situation baffling and confounding bearing in mind the increases in the prices of crude oil and relative peace in the oil producing communities which ought to translate to increasing oil production activities in the industry.
“It was noted, that the causes of these company closures and redundancies with its attendant job losses are much more than poor global oil market. We therefore call on the federal government to quickly set up intervention machinery to address the ugly and undesirable trend with a view of saving jobs and reduce poverty in the land.”
Similarly, the communique noted that members of NEC also “deliberated extensively on the increasing and continuing usage of skilled and competent Nigerians as modern day slaves in their country under the unscrupulous guise of contract staffing. The meeting noted with serious concern, that the adoption of contract staffing as a method of employment engagement with its attendant abuses without any apparent institutional guidelines and control has generally entrenched workers’ rights abuses and inhumane treatment of Nigerian workers by both Multinational oil corporations and indigenous oil companies.
“The NEC-in- Session calls on the National Assembly, the Executive arm of Government and other relevant bodies to urgently intervene and rescue oil and gas workers from the exploitative and abuses of the employers in the industry.”
The protracted unresolved labour issues in the sector, the communique said, were also looked into, saying “The NEC-in-session examined long list of unresolved labour issues involving Seawolf Drilling Company, Chevron and their labour Contractors, Tecon Oil Services, Universal Energy Limited, Agip, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Specialty Drilling and Fugro Nigeria, Nigeria Agip Oil Company, Forte oil, Oando, MRS, Conoil, NIPCO and other private depots.
“These issues range from non-payment of terminal benefits, short payment of terminal benefits, implementation/ refusal to renew CBA, arbitrary declaration of redundancies, refusal to unionization, victimization of workers due to union activities etc. The Council -in-session called on the Federal Government and all relevant agencies to urgently intervene in order to avoid the brewing industrial relations crisis in the oil and gas industry.”