Falling Oil Prices: Avoid anti-workers cost-cutting policies, PENGASSAN tells employers

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, on Friday warned employers in the oil and gas industry to avoid decisions capable of breaching industrial harmony in their bid to cut operational costs.

The association, under the aegis of Chevron Branch, called for close collaboration between employers and labour groups to resolve issues affecting the interest of employees, companies’ operations and the economy.

The Branch Chairman, Frank Esanubi, said that collaboration would enable the workers and their managements to work out ways to resolve challenges resulting from the free fall in oil prices.

He noted that it would be unethical for management to ignore procedures and unilaterally implement decisions considered not in the workers’ interest in a bid to cut operational costs in the face of dwindling oil prices.

Mr. Esanubi urged the government to ensure that employers are compelled to adhere to legal frameworks that encourage decent employment and unionisation of workers.

He said it was only under such decent working environment that a robust industrial harmony and improved productivity could be guaranteed.

The union leader said the training was necessary to equip members of the association with relevant modern knowledge and information necessary to help them confront challenges posed by the ongoing reforms in the country’s oil industry and the dwindling oil prices.

A past president of PENGASSAN and President-General, Trade Union Congress TUC, Peter Esele, said the collaboration between the employers and labour in the oil and gas industry would promote industrial harmony and enhanced productivity as both parties would be seeing issues form mutually beneficial perspectives.

According to Mr. Esele, the inability of the government to ensure strict adherence to some of the provisions of the constitution, particularly the extant labour laws and international conventions, was responsible for the series of industrial disharmony in the sector.

He enjoined employers to respect the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on the Right to Freedom of Association and lawful Assembly, as well as the Trade Union Act and the international conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the right to collective bargaining and unionisation.

Speaking on “ILO Conventions and The Nigeria Labour Laws,” Chika Onuegbu noted that the Nigerian labour laws right from the colonial period seemed largely designed to facilitate the commercial and economic objectives and interests of the masters.

He appealed to the government to ensure that all ILO conventions were ratified, particularly Convention 158 concerning Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer, which came into force on November 3, 1985.

He said this would provide some succour to those whose employment did not have statutory flavour.

The National Assembly, he said, must review the Nigerian labour laws and bring them up to date with current reality and international best practice, as most of the laws were outdated.

He also said that the continued delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been pending before the National Assembly since 2012, was not in the country’s interest.

“Government should make it mandatory for employers to recognise the right to freedom of association and effective collective bargaining by all companies operating or doing business in the Nigeria oil and gas industry irrespective of where they are located,” Mr. Onuegbu said.

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