Fuel depots shut down as NUPENG begins nationwide strike

NUPENGBy Jide Ogunsanya with Punch report

As the three-day warning strike of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) commenced this morning, activities at fuel depots across the country have been disrupted

The strike is seeking a change to all anti-Labour practices in the oil and gas sector.

As a result of the strike, loading of petroleum from  depots across the nation have been halted.

An official of the union, however, told one of our correspondent that the leaders of the union would hold a meeting with the Federal Government by 1pm

The National Executive Committee of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers had earlier warned government that it would commence the three-day warning strike should nothing positive was done.

The President of NUPENG, Mr. Achese Igwe, who spoke with journalists shortly after a meeting of the NEC of NUPENG, said further steps by the union would depend on the outcome of a meeting between it and the Federal Government on Wednesday.

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Igwe said that the union would attend a meeting initiated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, with the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Friday.

He said while the Director-General of State Services, Mr. Lawal Daura, had intervened to stop the planned action, the NEC felt that it must take place, after deliberations.

Igwe said though the strike would commence on Wednesday, the decision to continue with it would be reached at the meeting with the Federal Government delegation on Wednesday.

He said the strike became necessary in order to draw attention to pressing issues in the oil and gas sector, such as casualisation, job security, non implementation of collective agreements and non involvement of the union in the ongoing divestment system by Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited and others.

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He said, “The NEC held a meeting today to review the three-day warning strike that was scheduled to take place tomorrow (Wednesday).

“However, as you are all aware, it is not an indefinite strike; it is a symbolic strike action to drive home some of those issues that are really challenging, and to give them the ultimate attention as expected.

“They have to do with casualisation, job security, non implementation of collective agreements across the entire country in the oil and gas sector and the balkanisation of the ongoing divestment system.

“NEC directed that pending the outcome of the meeting tomorrow, the three-day warning strike will take place. The Ministry of Labour has called for a meeting with the Minister of Petroleum.

“We are positive that the meeting will resolve the issues; where it fails, the three-day warning strike will take place.”

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Igwe added that over 4,000 oil workers have lost their jobs due to the ongoing divestment by Shell and other oil firms, which excluded the union.

He said several oil firms, including Halliburton, are closing shop, while Saipem has folded up.

Igwe also lamented that most of the multinational oil firms had refused to respect existing labour laws.

According to him, a good number of workers who have lost their jobs were sent away without benefits and have been unable to meet family obligations.

He lamented that huge amount of money running into trillions was being tied down in the sector in the name of debt buy back by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria.

He recalled that AMCON took over a company, Sea Drill Nigeria limited, in the guise of debt buy back and fired all the workers without paying their due benefits in 2013.