The two major workers’ unions in the oil and gas industry on Tuesday resolved to immediately shelve their ongoing strike and the one planned for January 9, 2017.
The decision to shelve the actions was taken by the leaderships of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, after their meeting with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, Tuesday in Abuja.
The two unions had threatened to embark on a three-day nationwide warning strike by January 9, 2017, over what they termed “anti-labour practices by International Oil Companies (IOCs).”
The threat followed allegations by the Chevron Nigeria Limited chapter of the NUPENG that about 250 of its members were sacked by the company after declaring their contract not binding, because it could not trace the company that employed them as contract workers.
Again, PENGASSAN members working in ExxonMobil were to embark on a protest penultimate Wednesday, which grounded normal business at the company’s operations headquarters at Qua Iboe terminal, Ibeno and the company’s Lagos office.
The protest followed a standoff by the workers with their management over alleged sack of about 150 of its members over terminal benefits issues.
With the difficult situation operators in the oil and gas industry have been facing in recent times as a result of declining global oil prices, the management of the company was said to have offered “low performing” staff a terminal package for them to exit the company.
The package, which was said to have ranged between N140 million and N350 million, was rejected by the affected workers.
Rather, “high performing” staff the company wanted to retain were the ones who opted to take the package, compelling the management to decide to dispense with the two groups, triggering the crisis.
The Chairman of the ExxonMobil Branch of PENGASSAN, Paul Eboigbe, had accused the management of the oil company of sacking its members, while negotiations were still on going.
The protesting workers had shut-down all oil production and export facilities at the Qua Iboe terminal, Ibeno, an action that threw into jeopardy about 30 per cent contribution from the joint venture to the country’s overall 2.2 million barrels per day crude oil output.
But, the Minister said on Monday he had scheduled to meet with the oil workers on Tuesday, while the management of the affected oil companies have been asked to suspend all actions aimed at reducing their workforce till further notice, to stem the looming crisis in the industry.
At the end of the meeting on Tuesday, PENGASSAN President, Francis Johnson, told PREMIUM TIMES on telephone the two oil workers unions reached an agreement with the minister on the way forward over the crisis.
“The plan to embark on the nationwide strike has been suspended. The strike by ExxonMobil workers has also been suspended. All actions by the managements of Chevron and ExxonMobil have also been suspended till further notice,” Mr. Johnson said.
“A committee was set up during the meeting to look at all the issues involved. The committed was mandated to report back to the minister on January 10, 2017.”
The minister said he had persuaded the workers and the managements of the oil companies to halt their actions, to give government the chance to turn around the difficult situation in the oil and gas industry.
“We had asked the workers to suspend their strike actions, and the oil companies to suspend all actions geared towards reduction of staffing until we have taken a first quarter analysis of the impact of what government has done to reverse the difficult trend in the industry. If this happens, then incidences of people being laid off work would be reduced,’ the minister said.
He said he was optimistic that the recent effort by government, with the launch of a new funding mechanism for the joint venture operations, would boost the momentum of operations in the industry.