PENGASSAN shuts down GE, demands payment of workers’ allowance
Business activities were yesterday disrupted at the Mansard House in Lagos, which hosts the office of GE International Operations Nigeria Limited (GEION), when members of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), stormed the premises over alleged failure to settle outstanding payments of workers.
The aggrieved workers were contracted to work for GE through contract arrangement with Arco Petrochemical Engineering Company Limited. The Guardian gathered that since the demobilisation of workers from the multi-million dollar maintenance service contract for gas turbines and related equipment for OB/OB, Ebocha and Kwale Gas plants in Delta State last year, GEION has refused to meet the demands of the company despite the Federal Government’s intervention.
At about 6 a.m. yesterday, members of PENGASSAN were sighted barricading the entrance of Mansard House with inscriptions on placards such as, ‘work no pay is a crime against humanity’, ‘Our wage is our right’, ‘General Electric respect contractual agreement’, GE pay our money’ and many more.
Speaking on behalf of the workers, Lagos Zonal Chairman, PENGASSAN, Abel Agari, explained that its members had to intervene due to the failure of GE to accept responsibility for the promise it made to Federal Government last year when they met in Abuja.
Agari said: “GE outsourced a project to ARCO, which has been completed but since the completion GE was delaying payment, action was taking and we were both invited to Abuja by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
“During the meeting GE took a responsibility and agreed that if ARCO is able to demobilise from site as soon as possible, they would be issued a purchasing invoice that would get matured in 30 days.
“By February this year, ARCO completed the demobilisation from the site and the purchase invoice is not forthcoming. We are now in April, and GE is foot-dragging, the purchase invoice they never issued, and statement is not coming forth from them.
“If it takes us one month to shut this place down until GE responds to our cry of giving Arco a purchasing invoice, we will do it. Other companies in the building should not hold Arco and PENGASSAN responsible for the action but grievances should be forwarded to GE,” he said.
Agari insisted: “We are not going to leave this spot, until a statement is issued to that effect and a commitment to that effect and we don’t need further extension of this payment except they will take responsibilities that they start paying arrears for all the other months workers have not received salary.
Agari had explained that the workers who are now jobless are facing untold hardship and GE appeared to be unmindful of their situation over these last six months.
He recalled that at the meeting with Ngige in Abuja, on November 30, 2016, and attended by all stakeholders in the matter, GE gave an undertaking to pay to Arco, the money due to it once Arco fulfilled all requirements for demobilisation from the gas plants.
“Instead of paying the prescribed demobilization fee to Arco to enable Arco to pay the severance benefits of over 150 members of their Union that are affected by the lay-off from OBOB/Kwale/Eboch gas plants, GE is busy demanding untenable conditions for payment even when Agip had certified the demobilisation of Arco from the gas plants,” the PENGASSAN Zonal Chairman said.
The workers are also demanding from GE the Overhaul Allowances due to them between 2006 and 2011, which GE has refused to entertain and which is currently before the Minister of Labour and Employment for advice to the parties including GE, Arco and the workers.
“As we speak, at ARCO base in Port Harcourt, so many of the workers are bedridden and we cannot fold our arms while people are dying. ARCO is unable to mobilise for any other job because they don’t have funds,” he said.
He added: “The federal government has a role to play and we are waiting for them, we also sent a letter to them in regards to our action today based on the refusal of GE to honour the gentleman agreement we had with them when the minister presided over.
As we speak now, if the Federal Ministry of Labour intervene, we don’t have problem, we would wait and attend that meeting and if nothing comes out of the meeting to hold on to, we take other final action.”
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