Wednesday, 13 July 2016

PENGASSAN calls off strike as FG, OICs agree to recall sacked 2000 oil workers


The National Executive Council, NEC, of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, early hours of Wednesday suspended the strike the association embarked upon over some unresolved issues in the oil and gas sector with the federal government.

But the strike which was suspended about 5am by the leadership of PENGASSAN, was made possible after the association and the government team as well as the international oil companies had entered into a compromise for the recall of over 2000 sacked workers in the sector.

Addressing journalists in Abuja after its NEC, National President of PENGASSAN, Comrade Francis Johnson announced that the association had suspended the strike and that it was agreed by all the parties involved in the dispute that led to the strike that no worker that participated in the strike would be victimised. He directed all oil workers to commence work immediately.

Before PENGASSAN suspended the strike, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige had embarked on a marathon meeting with the association and management of major oil producing companies which lasted to about 3am on Wednesday.

The tripartite reconciliatory meeting which also included the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, led by its President, Comrade Igwe Achese, did not end without heated arguments on some of the contentious issues before they were resolved.

Also as part of the peace deal, the Federal Government agreed to pay-off estimated sum of $4.8 billion arrears of the old Joint Venture Cash Calls inherited by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. PENGASSAN President, Comrade Johnson explained that the $4.8 billion will “help the international oil companies to stem the tide of redundancies being declared in the industry and help address job losses of oil workers that would otherwise be put into the unemployment market.”

Reading the Communiqué of the meeting between the Federal Government, leaders of the oil workers and the management of the international oil workers, the Labour and Employment Minister, Senator Ngige, disclosed that “the meeting agreed that where redundancy has been declared by some IOCs without going through section 20 of the Labour Act, Cap L1 LFN 2004, such companies should revert to status quo Ante Bellum.

“Most of the IOCs and indigenous oil companies that have laid off workers without passing through due process of the law, all agreed to comply and in such cases where the workers had gone on strikes or lock outs by employers, the meeting directed them to unlock such premises while the actions of employers have also been put on hold to make for a free and unfettered atmosphere during the negotiations.” The parties however agreed that other negotiations not concluded as at the Wednesday morning, with collective bargaining agreement (CBA), were all deferred to Tuesday and Thursday, 19 and 21 July 2016, for further action.

In the report presented at the first day of negotiation meeting held in Abuja, Ibe Kachukwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources disclosed that “almost all the OICs have signed into these proposals,” BusinessDay gathered.

But impasse between the unions and the employers was resolved during the reconvened reconciliatory meeting chaired by Minister of Labour and Employment which started at about 3:12pm on Tuesdayand ended at about 3am on Wednesday morning while the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of PENGASSAN ended at about 4:56am.

According to the 4-page communique issued at the end of the tripartite meeting, the management teams of various oil companies resolved to recall all the workers disengaged over the last few months.

They also expressed satisfaction with the reports given by the Security Chiefs of the Department of Security Services (DSS) and the police on Governments efforts to tackling the issues of insurgency and pipeline vandalism and kidnapping of oil workers in the country.

On the state of the refineries and non-implementation of collective bargaining agreements (CDA), all the parties satisfactorily adopted the work plan by Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources for the reactivation of refineries.

In response to the questions raised on the ongoing restructuring of agencies under the Ministry, the parties adopted the presentation of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources that “the restructuring of PPPRA, PEF, DPR, PTI, NNRA, PTDF and NCDMB had been done in these agencies and no jobs were lost or will be lost.”

Federal Government also conceded to the demand for the repairs of major roads leading to the refineries including Mosimi, A mild drama had ensued when tempers were high the Minister threatened to walk-out some of the oil workers who chanted solidarity songs, saying “am I in charge of this meeting or you?” He however noted that his concern was to ensure the reinstatement of the workers who were sacked unjustly.

Ngige who was visibly angry by the attitude of oil workers’ representatives, also urged the Unions to call off the strike in the interest of the country, adding that 90 percent of the workers’ demands had been amicably resolved.

However, in a swift reaction to the Minister’s threat, Comrade Johnson expressed displeasure over the late commencement of the negotiation meeting, stressing that the prolonged meeting had truncated the initial plan of the Union to hold NEC meeting by 5pm.

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