The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, on Monday evening suspended its nationwide strike, after an indigenous oil company, Neconde Energy Limited, agreed to recall disengaged staff of the union.
But the National President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson, who announced the suspension of the strike, said the union is returning to work in the spirit of the Christmas season. As at Monday, several filling stations in Abuja were without petrol, a development that left commuters stranded as commercial vehicles queued to refill their tanks.
According to reports, most of the petrol stations selling fuel in Lagos had long queues of vehicles struggling to buy. Some were rationing the product, prefering to attend to their corporate clients before dispensing to smaller customers.
The announcement by PENGASSAN to proceed on strike is believed to have worsened the fuel scarcity across the country as marketers hoarded the product in anticipation of the strike and petrol users resorted to panic buying.
The scarcity of premium motor spirit, PMS, otherwise called petrol, across the country has resulted in price increase by filling stations in some states.
A statement issued by the National Public Relations Officer, PRO, of PENGASSAN, Mr. Fortune Obi, disclosed that the suspension of the strike followed the intervention of the DG of the Department of the State Services, DSS, Lawan Daura, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu.
PENGASSAN had earlier alleged anti-labour practices against some of its members by some indigenous oil companies, including Neconde Energy Limited.
The umbrella body of senior workers in the oil and gas industry had accused the management of Neconde Energy Limited of wrongful termination of the employment of some of its workers for associating with PENGASSAN.
Managing Director of Neconde Energy Services Limited, Mr. Frank Edozie, represented the management of the oil company at the parley. At the end of the meeting, Neconde issued letters of recall to the affected workers, which was one of the conditions given by PENGASSAN for the strike to be suspended.
The management of Neconde also agreed to allow workers participate in union activities, while the Labour Minister is to resolve the alleged anti-union posture by other indigenous companies and marginal field operators. The meeting further agreed that labour issues related with other oil and gas companies were to be addressed in the second week of January 2018.
In the same vein, the meeting resolved to address alleged anti-union posture of other indigenous and multi-national oil companies, particularly their penchant to resort to abuse of court processes to stall the peaceful resolution of issues affecting workers’ interests.
The accused companies include Specialty Drilling Fluid, SDF; CETCO, Century Energy, Oil Data Services, Frontier Oil, Universal Energy, Fugro Oil and Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited.
Announcing the suspension of the planned industrial action on Monday, Johnson said issues of anti-union posture of the companies must be addressed, by ensuring they abide by the country’s constitution, extant Labour laws and International Labour Organisation conventions by the third week of 2018, to avert a full blown industrial crisis.
Last week, Ngige had brokered a two-day meeting with the warring PENGASSAN and Neconde Energy Services Ltd, and secured an agreement. The union, during the meeting, alleged anti-union posturing by some indigenous companies and marginal field operators, including Neconde Energy, accusing them of indiscriminate transfer of employees.
Deputy Director, Press, at the Ministry of Labour, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, who spoke on behalf of the minister said, “By that agreement, Neconde will review the termination of the affected staff members with a view to making it conform with the relevant labour laws as regards disengagement of staff.
“Neconde should also within three months restore the PEGASSAN unit in its establishment in the spirit of the freedom of association as enshrined in the ILO Convention as well as section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which deals with the same issue.”