Striking senior staff of Addax Petroleum Nigeria on Monday insisted on continuing with their industrial action declared last week, amid ‘no work, no pay’ threat letters issued by management to key union officials.
On Monday, the Addax Petroleum Chapter of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) called out its members nationwide on an indefinite strike action over “some unresolved burning issues”.
The workers said the strike was a culmination of series of failed and inconclusive communications between the workers’ union and the management of the company over alleged “culture of impunity against some of its officials”.
Some of the issues included alleged unilateral interpretation of the subsisting collective bargaining agreement (CBA) reached between the union and management in August 2014 on issues bordering on activation of non-statutory remunerations to members.
Others included alleged selected targeted victimisation of union leaders identified as not working in line with management interest; stagnation of some staff for between 10 to 12 years, and selective and discriminatory promotion of workers.
But, rather than dialogue over these grievances, the company’s management, on Friday, issued threat letters to hold key officials of the union in an attempt to hold them personally responsible for the outcome of the strike.
The general secretary of the association, Gerald Agwu, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the Chapter Chairman of PENGASSAN, Chris Ogienwonyi Jnr, was served one of the letters in his personal capacity.
Mr Agwu said the content of the letter to the PENGASSAN Chairman indicated he would lose his pay for equal number of days he would be found be out of work if he did not call off the strike and return to work.
He said similar letters were served to ”every other top official of the association, including himself, the General Secretary, the Public Relations Officer and others”.
But, the association’s spokesperson said the union has already sent a response to Addax management stating the ‘no work no pay’ threat letter was “completely unacceptable to the workers”.
He said the workers were determined to sustain the strike action for as long as it would take management to dialogue on the issues raised by the workers.
“Yes, Addax management issued letters for ‘no work, no pay’ to out union leaders on Friday, April 20, 2018,” Mr Agwu said during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on telephone on Monday.
“Letters were given to the officials in their personal capacities for actions taken by the association. This is clearly an attempt to victimise officials and intimidate them as a deterrent to others who would be interested in taking up union responsibilities.
“But, there is nothing new in the threat. The whole thing is nothing but an attempt to individualise the collective action by PENGASSAN and break the solidarity of the workers.
“They want to hold the officials personally accountable to the strike action declared by the association during the period. This completely against the tenets and spirit of industrial law, as actions by workers were governed by the rule of collective responsibility.”
He said the ‘no work, no pay’ threat to striking workers was not a new line of action management of the company has adopted.
Recalling that when it was tested in 2012, Mr Agwu noted it ended with the Federal Ministry of Labour decalring it unacceptable and prevailing on management to immediately withdraw it within 24 hours.
Again, when a similar action was enacted in December 2015, Mr Agwu said the then Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and now Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, told Addax management the action was unacceptable.
Meanwhile, a mediatory meeting has been summoned for Abuja on Tuesday by the Federal Ministry of Labour & Productivity where all parties to the crisis would attempt to dialogue on the issues and come to a compromise between the association and management of the company.
Labur ministry sources told our reporter, those invited to the meeting included national and chapter officials of PENGASSAN as well as the senior Vice President/Chief Executive of Addax Petroleum, Colin Klappa, who is expected to attend with other top management staff of the company.
The company’s spokesperson, Dorothy Atake, did not respond to calls to her on Monday seeking her comment for this story.
Mrs Atake, who is also the General Manager, External & Government Affairs, did not also respond to a text message sent to her telephone requesting her confirmation of the threat letter issued by Addax management to the workers.