The business exploits of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have not only earned the members capital, but also respect from their employers as the union has no need to go cap in hand for financial support.
President of the union, Ndukaku Ohaeri, who noted that the union presently can boast of tangible and intangible assets, stated that diversification was the way to go now for any union that wants to survive amid present economic challenges.
He speaks on the reasons why union leadership must begin to think out of the box and find alternative ways to generate revenue so that the business of the union will continue.
The PENGASSAN president also analysed what the future holds for the organised labour and the expectations of Nigerians from the movement. Excerpts:
Change is the only thing that is constant. Most unions today, especially in our clime, depend largely on check-off dues of members and it is from there that the unions manage their administration. Over time, because of challenges due to decline in membership and, by extension, the dwindling revenue that comes to the union, most unions are not able to meet most of their obligations, which has to do with affiliates’ dues, payment of salary to workers that work directly for the union, and expenses for moving about to resolve one issues or the other and also provide training and capacity-building for members and workforce. So, having discovered that these dues can no longer cater for all of these expenses, moreso most organisations no longer feel comfortable to support unions in the form of sponsorship, it became clear that every union leadership must begin to think out of the box and begin to find alternative ways to generate revenue so that the business of the union continues.
Implications of going cap in hand
It’s very clear that he who pays the piper calls the tune. One of the key mandates of the union is to secure the jobs of their members and also improve employment benefits. So, if you have to go cap in hand to the same organisation, you have put yourself in a weak position. You might not be able to effectively represent your association because you are actually talking to the people that are sponsoring your programmes. Obviously, you have such implications as not being able to discuss and get the required result. Also, you’re now going to be struggling to balance it up. If you think about going full-blown, putting your feet down on certain decisions, knowing fully well that if you have to go the other way around they will cut off the sponsorship. So, it’s always good to be self-reliant as much as possible.
For PENGASSAN, very frankly we’ve been able to do a lot in that regard. The respect has been there. It’s been mutual trust. Like I said, our organisations knows that we don’t come to them asking for frivolous sponsorship request. Once in a while, we ask for standard sponsorship, for instance, people want to go to Geneva for International Labour Conference (ILC), we can write some organisations to request for sponsorship of one or two persons within the organisation. That one is there; even when they don’t respond, that would not stop us from doing what we need to do. Talking about how we have fared in our relationship with employers vis sponsorship, we can pride ourselves as an association that, even when we make the requests, we don’t chase you around for it. We make the request like any other requests, whether it comes or not, it doesn’t stop anything. I can confirm today that we’ve not been getting a lot of such sponsorship, yet we are carrying on with our business. Perhaps we get more sponsorship from organisations like NNPC and it’s subsidiaries more than the international oil companies in terms of capacity-building. Despite that, we still run our organisation. PENGASSAN has close to 50 staff that we pay on daily basis, they have their conditions of service, pension, standard CBA from our resources. We’ve earned that respect because we don’t go cap in hand and that has helped us in managing our members and our issues.
We have both tangible and intangible assets. If I start from tangible, to the glory of God, our national secretariat is purely owned by us. We have four zones and we own our properties in all our zones. In Port Harcourt, it is not just secretariat alone, but apartments occupied by tenants from where we earn some funds to support the maintenance of the property and additional money into our purse. In Warri, the secretariat there is ours. We also have another one in Kaduna and the building is also ours and part of it is also rented out. Over and above that, we also have some properties, like in Port Harcourt, we have a massive tract of land there that is fenced round and kept and another one that we are currently building, the e-Library and event centre, which, by his grace, we hope to complete by May/June this year. Our intention is to replicate such event centres across the four zones, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Warri and Kaduna. That of Port Harcourt is nearing completion, as I speak now, they are putting roof on it. It’s a massive two-storey building that will have auditorium, offices, lounge and all that. We are doing all of this to ensure that we have alternative sources of revenue and also generate some employment because when it’s completed we are going to enter into partnership, MOU with a company that will manage the place and we will have to share whatever revenue generated from there depending on what the agreement says. We will also replicate it across the four zones. We are also looking at some other areas that we can invest, all in a bid to bring in revenue from other sources.