Oil workers in Nigeria have suspended a strike called Tuesday in protest of the restructuring of state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The decision came after a meeting between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibeh Kachikwu, and the workers’ unions, PREMIUM TIMES understands.
The head of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Saleh Abdullahi, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that at the end of a lengthy meeting with the minister, the workers resolved to call off the strike immediately.
“The strike has been suspended with immediate effect,” Mr. Abdullahi said. “At the end of the meeting, the unions were able to reach some important agreements with the minister. With that basic understanding, the unions feel there is no reason to continue with the strike any further.”
Mr. Abdullahi said the meeting, which lasted till about 5 a.m. on Thursday, agreed to set up a tripartite committee consisting staff of the corporation, its management and the workers unions to henceforth look exhaustively at all issues capable of generating misunderstanding and conflict, particularly those bordering on Labour concerns and address them.
He said the minister appreciated the concerns of the workers, particularly on the point that consultations and communication were not wide enough, and conceded to their demands that henceforth all decisions on NNPC restructuring and industry operation must involve all interest groups.
Although he said other outstanding issues affecting the concerns of the workers were also addressed during the meeting, the PENGASSAN Group Chairman did not elaborate on the details.
No time line was given for the committee to undertake its assignment. But, Mr. Abdullahi said there was no doubt that the minister understood the sensitivity of the matter and the need to work expeditiously to kick-start the process of discussion and dialogue.
With the decision to call off the strike, Mr. Abdullahi said all members of the two unions, namely PENGASSAN and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, were directed to return to work immediately and ensure that normalcy in fuel supply returns immediately.
He expressed regrets that fuel supply may not be normalised til the end of the day, or latest Friday, considering that the directive for workers to return to work was issued only at 6 a.m. on Thursday following the meeting, which ended barely an hour earlier.
PENGASSAN President, Francis Johnson, urged Nigerian to bear with the unions over the situation, assuring that everything was being done to ensure that the disruption in fuel supply as a result of the strike did not linger for long.
Mr. Johnson, who emphasized the importance of consultation and dialogue in decision making, said he was grateful to all the parties involved in the negotiations towards the resolution of the crisis, particularly the intervention of the director of State Security Service, SSS.
Mr. Kachikwu had earlier announced the creation of seven units from the existing NNPC, namely, Upstream, Downstream, Gas & Power Marketing, Refineries and Ventures, Corporate Planning & Services and Finance and Accounts.
The workers said the decision was “unilateral and arbitrary”, and that they were not informed.
In response, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, shut off NNPC offices and facilities in the country.
Mr. Kachikwu later denied Wednesday that the exercise was an “unbundling” of NNPC, saying the corporation was merely restructured and that nothing had changed.