From Magnus Eze and Adewale Sanyaolu
Nigerians yesterday heaved a sigh of relief as the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) suspended its three-day warning strike, which began yesterday, following a resolution reached with government, International Oil Companies (IOCs), and other stakeholders in the industry over the contentious issues, staving off another round of debilitating fuel scarcity that would have hit the nation.
The union had embarked on the a three-day warning strike over casualisation, job security issue, non-implementation of collective agreement in the oil and gas sector in the country, and the balkanisation of the ongoing divestment system in the industry.
NUPENG National President, Mr.Igwe Achese, said the decision to embark on the strike was taken at the end of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Monday. NUPENG maintained that it would resist any divestment plan by the IOCs that does not carry it along, especially in OML 53 and 55 operated by Chevron and now OML 30.
But at the end of their meeting yesterday, Igwe, who addressed newsmen after the meeting that lasted over five hours, said, “having been satisfied with the commitment shown by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources over the issues, the union hereby suspends the strike.”
The commitment by the IOCs was that all the oil companies should go and address the grey areas concerning welfare issues of their workers and report back to their respective ministries within two weeks.
Also speaking, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, disclosed that the IOCs had agreed to pay the backlog of salary arrears and all the entitlements owed workers sacked by them.
He directed all the IOCs not present at the meeting to appear on July 24, 2017, failing which the ministry will invoke all necessary labour laws against them.
NUPENG president further told journalists that NNPC in the course of the negotiation agreed to sanction any IOC that failed to adhere to the terms of the agreement.
Representatives of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), NNPC, National Salaries and Wages Commission and some oil and servicing companies, among others, were in attendance.