Oil workers end strike as PENCOM reverses decision on NNPC pension license

The main oil industry workers unions, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), have called off their five-day long strike action.

The decision to call off the action was arrived at at the end of a five-hour meeting with the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who promised to address their grievances.

Following days of hardship by consumers nationwide as a result of scarcity of petroleum products, a situation triggered by the industrial action, President Goodluck Jonathan waded in by directing the Minister to immediately dialogue with the aggrieved workers to resolve the crisis.

The unions had protested the decision by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) ordering the withdrawal of the temporary license granted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to run a defined benefit pension scheme.

PENCOM had alleged that the NNPC lacked the capacity to run such a scheme in view of its inability to bridge the funding gap of the scheme, which climbed to about N85 billion between 2010 and 2014.

The union had also demanded that government took the issue of turn around maintenance (TAM) of the country’s four refineries seriously to boost the capacity for local refining of petroleum products, while increasing the allocation of crude oil for local refining to help reduce the growing reliance on importation of petroleum products for domestic fuel consumption.

At the end of the marathon meeting on Friday, the Union leaders said they resolved to call off the strike after the minister informed them that PENCOM had agreed to rescind its decision.

PENGASSAN Secretary, Bayo Oluwosile, told PREMIUM TIMES that during the meeting, the minister had affirmed NNPC management’s commitment to closing the existing N86.5 billion pension fund gap on or before August 2015.

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Joseph Dawha, who also attended the meeting, said the corporation’s management would, in consultation with the executives of the NNPC chapters of the unions, determine the amount to be paid as lump sum into the pension fund in line with the approval already granted by the minister.

Mr. Oluwosile said the minister also emphasized the need for the Union to embrace an international standard pension fund structure and framework to ensure that after the pension fund gap is closed, the framework would ensure that the pension fund was invested and managed to guarantee sustainability.

Other resolutions during the meeting include the constitution of an ad hoc committee comprising representatives from the NNPC management, PENGASSAN, NUPENG, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Retirement and Saving Account and Corporate Services & Legal Department to work out modalities and framework to sustain the NNPC Pension scheme along the oil and gas private sector lines.

On turn around maintenance (TAM), Mr. Oluwosile said the minister promised to address the matter internally in liaison with the NNPC management and staff unions.

Also to be addressed in a similar manner are other thorny issues including those that have to do with crude oil supply to the refineries and other internal operational matters.

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